Companies are increasingly tracking eye movements – but is it ethical?

When Facebook reinvented itself in Meta in October 2021, it was widely reported that Meta would focus on virtual reality (VR) by Being at the forefront of the metaverse.

But Meta hasn’t given up on the brick and mortar world yet, like This is reflected by the company’s massive investment in augmented reality (AR) glasses..

Explore CNET Meta Quest Pro.

My research studies smart properties and human-computer interactions in smart environments.

Meta is just one of many companies that are betting that the future of physical space will include integrating with digital, augmenting our reality. appleand Google, Snap, Microsoft and a string of other tech companies are working on augmented reality wearables: augmented reality glasses, smart contact lenses and AR headphones.



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Insight into the subconscious

As part of Reality Labs, Meta spearheads aria . project, which is leading the experimental development of augmented reality glasses under the umbrella of a research trial conducted with academic partners. The company promises that users will be able to use augmented reality glasses to operate the flashlight by simply staring at it and being able to quickly find their keys.

However, there is one dimension of augmented reality wearables that developers tend to underestimate or ignore altogether: it is eye tracking and what information about the way we interact with the world through our gaze and eye movements are captured and analyzed.

Psychologists have determined that for a long time eye movements They are unfiltered signals, giving insight into humans subconscious awareness.

Understanding Attention

Eye tracking was received in the context of augmented reality devices Great interest from Big Tech. Eye tracking was originally designed as a methodology to help researchers understand and record visual attention in a research lab environment As far back as the nineteenth century.

It has typically been applied to cognitive psychology, marketing research, and more recently to human-computer interactions where it can facilitate the lives of patients with disabilities.

Modern eye-tracking devices generally use a method known as corneal reflexNear infrared light is used to illuminate the eyes, causing a reflection that is detected by a high-resolution camera. Then advanced image programming determines the point of view and stimuli, making it possible to draw a heat map of where a person has been looking in a given environment. Additionally, the data captured includes pupil position, blinking patterns, and eye movements.

A woman wearing a headset that says OCULUS

VR headsets, such as Oculus, track a user’s eye movements while they are in virtual spaces.
(stock struggle)

In recent years, the range of eye tracking applications has been greatly expanded, from Driver Monitoring SystemsAnd the Attention management in educationAnd the Elderly health careAnd the E-commerce website design And even video games as a building tool.”Sentimental JourneysFor the players.

However, these applications are typically implemented as part of product development or research projects, rather than as internal features in devices aimed at the consumer market.

Privacy is not enough

Indeed, the inclusion of eye trackers in consumer-led AR devices takes what was originally a scientific methodology to the real world. The development of wearable AR devices with eye-tracking capabilities for the mass market epitomizes the rigorous allocation of human intimate living spaces through technology.

It is easy to ignore the problem by claiming that eye tracking is necessary for users to get the full benefit of augmented reality. for example, Explanation of the developers of Project Aria For augmented reality glasses to work, “they need to have a good sense of where you are, what you’re looking at, and what action you might want to take.”

To avoid users’ concerns, Meta ethicists insist on privacy. However, the focus on data transparency and Advanced search to anonymize eye tracking data Eye trackers won’t prevent you from observing your users’ interactions with the outside world at levels of consciousness that we’re not even aware of.

Augmented reality is a big business with an unparalleled ability to monetize our presence in the built environment. Mita is said to have invested billions of dollars In what she calls the “Holy Grail” of complete augmented reality glasses for everyone.

Undoubtedly, with augmented reality wearables, what drives their implementation is the monetization potential of them Targeted ads.

Figure in a headset in a virtual reality space with balls of light at the end of their arms

Meta invests in hardware and software to expand augmented reality applications.
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evasion of responsibility

Companies that develop eye-tracking products tend to avoid liability by ordering them Self-regulating the emerging augmented reality industry.

My research on the implementation of pervasive technologies in the built environment shows that in the context of the utilitarian trade-offs that embedded technologies impose on users in smart environments, Self-regulation does not work.

The main question is whether users prefer getting satisfaction from augmented reality at the expense of their freedom, or being free at the cost of their own.

The use of eye-tracking technology must be strictly controlled by third-party regulators. Users should always have the legally defined right and ability to make informed decisions about choosing eye tracking whenever they use wearable devices in both augmented and virtual reality.

This is critical to ensure that immersive technology Not lead to a very miserable future.

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