I've read some articles about visual perception and that it mostly differs in High-frequency, Mid-frequency and Low-frequency recognition. Whereas Low-freq is fastest and seems to be responsible for overall orientation. Mid-freq is important for letter recognition and High-freq for all details. See the image below for an idea of it.

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Source: psy.vanderbilt.edu, also a good article about visual frequencies

Its a very scientific field, but I think it can help us to improve our screen and icon design. I guess you already stumbled upon images like this below, where you still "see" the person although its very "unsharp" (only Low-frequencies aka no details). Actually you can simulate it through a simple Gauss-filter, too.

enter image description here

source: http://www.yorku.ca

Okay, complicated introduction followed by a simple question:

Is there a study, workflow, dedicated photoshop-filter, that can give me the ability to simulate an Eye-tracking situation?

...to check my layout: grasp the first impression, the idea of visual flow/attention and order of perception.

There is a common workaround for designers: you slightly pinch one eye together and see a blurry overall impression. But having it more precise would be awesome.

I played around a little, but I think its not accurate and still half the way enter image description here

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Not really. Frequency is one issue - but eye tracking is all about eye saccades.

This is a mild oversimplification - hopefully folk won't mind.

Hold your arm out and stick your thumb up. The size of top half of your thumb is roughly the size of the bit of your visual field that sees in 'high res' - the fovea. It takes up less than 1% of the retina area, but uses up about 50% of the visual cortex.

The fact that everything around you seems to be a high quality image is just your mind doing a really great modelling job. We dont 'see' the world, we see very small chunks of it and our brain does a bang up job of producing a nice high-rez simulation for us to work with internally ;-)

The eyes tend to move around in small fast movements called 'saccades' - these movements are what eye tracking rigs track. They are about figuring out where the 'high res' bit of the visual field is pointing - since that's where our visual attention is (which does not necessarily mean that what we're looking at is of interest, or what we expect, or that we're reading it, etc. - but this isn't the eye tracking rant so I'll hush...)

In fact there have been fascinating experiments where you have folk in eye tracking rigs looking at pictures. When their focus moves from one point to another - during the saccadic movement - you can change the bit of the picture that they were looking at and people tend not to notice anything amiss (see http://www.psychology.uiowa.edu/faculty/hollingworth/documents/hendholl_pp03.pdf for example).

So applying visual filters across the whole image aren't going to help you figure out where eyes are likely to go. Most of the processing happens where the eye already is ;-)

Especially since static images miss major cues that cause saccades like movement (there are parts of the eye that are sensitive to movement across the visual field and these are often cues for saccades - which is why those ever-rotating things are a crap idea since they involuntarily cause the people looking at the page to look at the moving thing...).

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    You know this one? youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo – FrankL Nov 16 '12 at 9:42
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    Heat maps is really just one of the analyses you can get from an e.t. study. The e.t. software just logs every gaze rapidly. For the logo example, you could use an "Area of interest" analysis instead. Define various areas you would like to know if the user has focused on. After all recordings you can fragment your audience by gender or age or anything you want (custom questions you add to your test-) and find out who has focused on this area. This is really advanced research, because even if they have focused on it, you don't know if they noticed it - and you don't know if they liked it. – Jørn E. Angeltveit Nov 16 '12 at 9:52
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    This is obviously a bit fussy but eye tracking isn't really about saccades, it's about fixations. Your average usability lab eye tracker does not have a temporal resolution sufficient to actually measure saccades, it just records where the gaze is “staying” for a longer time and assumes that what's in between is a saccade. – Gala Nov 17 '12 at 11:12
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    Heat maps in particular only reflect fixations and provide no insight on the path through the page or the saccades themselves. – Gala Nov 17 '12 at 11:19
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    Also, the issue is still somewhat debated but it's not clear we are seeing anything at all during saccades. The destination of the saccade is fixed before the movement starts and cannot be altered during the saccade itself (it's said to be stereotyped and ballistic) and that's what makes the experiment you describe possible. The focus of visual attention is therefore “decided” beforehand based at least in part on peripheral vision so that analyses of the whole image seem very relevant to guess what the gaze path is likely to be. – Gala Nov 17 '12 at 11:22

Well, Feng-GUI.com tries to create a heatmap based on AI.

The reliability has been discussed in other questions:

enter image description here

  • I did a small experiment with FengGui. See thread there. – FrankL Nov 16 '12 at 9:05
  • ...and "there" is "here" ;-) – Jørn E. Angeltveit Nov 16 '12 at 9:12

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