Eye-based communication: when the eye controls the computer – new doctoral network combining psychology, IT and application

Ulm University

In the new doctoral network “Eyes for Information, Communication and Understanding” (Eyes4ICU), experts from the fields of psychology, computer science and application are taking a closer look at eye interaction. In learning more about eye communication, researchers hope they will be able to convert their findings into technical innovations – from an eye-controlled computer mouse to assistance for people with speech impairments. The international doctoral network is led by the professor of psychology Anke Huckauf from Ulm University and is funded through the EU Horizon Europe programme. A total of 12 PhD positions have been advertised.

Sometimes looks say more than words. Eye contact makes information exchange possible without language and across greater distances. In the new doctoral network Eyes4ICU, interdisciplinary researchers aim to understand eye-based communication in detail and put their results into practice. One of the international network’s aims is to make it easier to control technical systems. Concrete applications range from the “eye mouse”, a computer mouse controlled by the eyes, to iris diagnostics of diseases.

Professor Anke Huckauf, head of the Eyes4ICU network and the General Psychology Department at Ulm University, relates, “In the new research network, we will trace eye interaction back to its cognitive and affective roots. From there, we hope to be able to derive reliable models for predicting user behaviour”. In concrete research projects at Ulm University, for instance, eye tracking is being used to investigate how often a person looks at the face or hands of their conversation partner during social interaction. So-called heat maps provide clues about eye patterns – for example when a person is learning material from an online source.

Network objective is qualification of young researchers

The Eyes4ICU consortium is comprised of seven research institutes and more than a dozen partners from the field with expertise in eye tracking. The research topics are examined from three perspectives: the psychological-empirical perspective, the computer modelling perspective and the application perspective.

The focus of the doctoral network is on the qualification of young researchers. 12 PhD positions have been advertised for the next three years. “The doctoral network combines basic research in psychology and information technology with various application scenarios. The chances for a later career in academic research or in an industrial setting are anticipated to be very good”, emphasises Professor Anke Huckauf.

The doctoral network, which is unique at Ulm University, is being funded for four years through the EU Horizon 2020 programme.

Institutions involved in this network include: Ulm University, Stuttgart University, the University of East Finland, the IT University of Copenhagen (Denmark), the Kempelen Institute of Intelligent Technologies in Bratislava (Slovakia), the Institute “Oculographics and Psychology” from the SWPS University in Warsaw (Poland) and the ETH Zurich. There are also numerous companies as partners. The researchers in the EYES4ICU network are receiving more than 3 million euros in funding – about 2.5 million euros of which come from the EU Horizon Europe programme. The Ulm University share is around 500,000 euros.

Text and mediacontact: Annika Bingmann
Translation: Kate Gaugler

[Translate to English:] Spielen für die Forschung
[Translate to English:] Forschung im neuen Doctoral Network: Beim Spielen wird mittels Eye Tracking ermittelt, wie intensiv Objekte oder Hände und das Gesicht des Gegenübers angeschaut werden (Foto: Eberhardt/Uni Ulm)
[Translate to English:] Forschung Eyes4ICU
[Translate to English:] Eine Heat-map zeigt an, wie häufig Lernende bestimmte Inhalte betrachten. Hieraus lassen sich Verbesserungen für die Online-Lehre ableiten (Foto: Eberhardt/Uni Ulm)
[Translate to English:] Prof. Anke Huckauf, Leiterin des Netzwerks
[Translate to English:] Prof. Anke Huckauf leitet das neue Doctoral Network Eyes4ICU (Foto: Eberhardt/Uni Ulm)