Tallinn University of Technology

On 27-29 September, opening events of the Eye-Tracking Laboratory of TalTech School of Business and Governance (SBG) took place, and a relevant course for doctoral students was conducted. It was arranged in cooperation with TalTech DataLab, the SBG Department of Law, the Department of Business Administration, the IVAR laboratory, and the Biosignal Processing Laboratory.

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From left: Tayfun Kasapoglu, Anu Masso and Mergime Ibrahimi

Master's and PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, and teaching staff from engineering, computer science, human geography, social sciences, and other disciplines took part in the course. In addition to the participants from TalTech, the course was attended by guests from the Netherlands and the USA. The world's top researchers, Annette Markham and Ahti-Veiko Pietarinen delivered talks to introduce the use of Eye-link, EEG/fNIRS software, and techniques in research. The course was concluded by a hackathon, where top experts and practitioners in their fields encouraged the participants to find innovative solutions to pressing social problems.

Anu Masso, the initiator and leader of the Eye-Tracking Lab, Associate Professor of Big Data in Social Sciences at TalTech, explains that establishing the Eye-Tracking Lab was initiated by the desire to provide TalTech research teams with tools and skills to investigate data technologies, such as data, algorithms, and artificial intelligence in the situations where the existing tools did not work. For instance, upon studying algorithmic bias and discrimination, biases are often hidden, and implicit, so in addition to questioning people directly, eye-tracking technology enables important additional possibilities. Sam Hutton, a Visiting Senior Lecturer at Sussex University, who gave a presentation as part of the course, believes that the application areas of the eye-tracking methodology are limited only by our imagination: every time we move our eyes, we make certain decisions. Therefore, eye-tracking gives us valuable information about the cognitive processes behind these decisions.

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What does the Eye-Tracking Lab offer to research groups at the School of Business and Governance?

“From the perspective of the TalTech Department of Business Administration (DBA), the official launch of the Eye-Tracking Lab marks the availability of an important new research infrastructure for DBA’s researchers and students,” says Wolfgang Gerstlberger, the Professor for Operations Management. He points out that the marketing research group will be able to investigate which marketing elements capture the consumer’s eye. The Sustainable Value Chain Management unit gets the possibility to research the effectiveness of new training programmes for managers and employees. The accounting research group will be able better to analyse research questions about error recognition and prevention.

Mergime Ibrahimi, a PhD student at Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance, thinks that eye-tracing technology allows researchers to understand human behaviour with algorithmic solutions improvised in a digital form, as people’s ability to verbalise certain behaviours cannot always be relied on. Therefore, eye-tracking is a valuable tool to contribute to traditional research methods by offering real-time information and visual representation.

Tayfun Kasapoglu, a postdoctoral researcher at the same department, adds that eye-tracking provides data on how people interact with their surroundings which are increasingly shaped by diverse data technologies. He thinks that eye-tracking methodology contributes to research that investigates how different social groups perceive technologies and paves the way for further analysing possible reasons and consequences.

Maria Claudia Solarte Vasquez, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Law, explains that the applications of biometric research in the legal field enable testing of transaction design and the usability of legally relevant products, services, interactions, processes, and systems.

The eye-tracking technique was put into practice at the hackathon that concluded the course. Anu Masso, the leader and organizer of the course, considered the hackathon fruitful: it was inspiring to see the IVAR laboratory engineers working with digital twins. In addition to finding a common language with the data artist, they also created synergy and offered innovative solutions for creating avatars. Practitioners who participated in the hackathon were grateful for the possible solutions to pressing problems offered at the event, e.g., how to use patients’ data to better plan the healthcare system.