Thursday, 6 October 2011

Growing arms and legs

Once you're settled in and are used to the rhythm of the academic life in your university, it can be a little bit difficult - I reflect after only being here three weeks, I know - to figure out how exactly you want to map out your own progress. As I mentioned in my last post, I'm currently waiting for my supervisor to review my ethics so that I can submit the application to the ethics board and hopefully begin my pilot.

What I'm discovering though, is that even something as simple as a pilot with only two participants can grow arms and legs. My study uses a portable eye tracker mounted on glasses frames. It has two cameras: one that points at the eye and one that views the scene. Once you compile the two, you get a pretty idea of where a person is fixating within the scene their head is pointed at (to put it very uneloquently). In theory, this is great! No more bite bars or chin rests, much more resemblance to real-world vision, what could go wrong? Well, those things are true, but there's some underlying complexities in there too.

Adjusting cameras (whilst being terrified I might break it), getting the balance of the calibration right, allocating the right amount of time etc. are all procedural things that I'm sure I'll get used to. After having a bit of a practise using the eye tracking and collecting some arbitrary footage, I'm getting a better picture of the sheer extent of data two participants will produce.

It has at least given me several new questions to answer: How much do I really need to know about where a participant looks? What's important to where they look? Do I really need a frame by frame breakdown?

At the moment, I am sitting on my hands - at least in regards to this - until ethics are approved, but these questions are churning over and I hope that that's something I can figure out soon, so I can best figure out how to run my pilot. The point of this post, I suppose, is to remind myself to think small. It's something I really need to learn, because look how something as small as two participants can grow into something big!

Let's hope the data grows into something big too :)

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