The eye-tracking device outlined and designed by Georgia Tech researchers provide an affordable technology that allows for reliable detection and ability to process in real-time.  While eye tracking is not a new device, creating one that is cost-effective provides nonprofits, such as zoos, new means to explore new uses for the technology.

Animals react to their environment through many senses: by smell and scent marking, listening and projecting calls, and even perceiving electromagnetic waves. Humans have been fascinated by how animals perceive the world in which we share. Zoo staff uses that curiosity and supplement with research to help provide healthier and happier lives for the animals in their care.

For instance, rhinos are thought to have poor vision, derived from anecdotal encounters with humans. A photographer may be able to get very close to one, provided they are still and blend in with neighboring rocks and shrubs.  However, there has been a lack of studies or science to back up the assumption of poor vision. Utilizing technology can help formalize hypothesis and provide better insights into providing better stimuli – in zoos or even in how we approach rhinos in the wild- the shape and color of gear, vehicles, and clothing.

Animals are often anthropomorphized, where we attach human-like characteristics and concepts. To better care for animals, zoo staff looks for ways to better adhere to species specific needs, instead of relying on human perception and preference. While there are studies providing information on an animal’s perception, there is still much we do not know about how they perceive the world. Having a method of real-time monitoring can provide feedback for their assumptions. The perspective will give their caregivers a small glimpse into their world, in hopes that it will guide them to better choices for the animal’s care, husbandry, diets, and needs.

Reference Material

Georgia Tech Technical Report: Detecting and Tracking Eyes By Using Their Physiological Properties, Dynamics, and Appearance

Zoo monitor image – Smithsonian National Zoo – Tim Flach

Rhino enrichment

Rhino vision

 

See the Zoo View project.