22 February, 2024

Enhancing Research on Autonomous Systems at UND with Eye Tracking

In the ever-evolving landscape of autonomous systems, researchers at the University of North Dakota’s Research Institute for Autonomous Systems (RIAS) are pushing boundaries to better understand the interaction between humans and machines. Senior Research Scientist Phil Brandt and his team, including Clinical Psychology PhD student Luke Gietzen and third-year graduate student Jessica Van Bree, are utilizing cutting-edge technology, including Smart Eye’s eye tracking solutions, to delve into the complexities of operating heavy tactical vehicles, specifically focusing on a Humvee equipped with modern technology.

The Human-Centric Approach

Phil Brandt, a retired Air Force aviator with extensive flight experience, emphasizes a human-first approach in their research. The lab at RIAS is primarily focused on human factors psychology, aiming to bridge the gap between humans and autonomous systems. Their mission extends beyond accomplishing RIAS’s goals; they are committed to providing valuable experiences for graduate and undergraduate students, preparing them for the challenges posed by the increasing integration of autonomous systems in society.

The Multidisciplinary Team

RIAS’s unique strength lies in its multidisciplinary team, comprising students from diverse fields such as computer science, commercial aviation, and psychology. This collaboration allows for a holistic approach to research, addressing challenges faced by operators when dealing with heavy military vehicles not designed with modern comfort standards in mind.

Enter Smart Eye: Solving Challenges in Heavy Tactical Vehicles

Recognizing the limitations of military vehicles designed primarily for mission functionality, the RIAS team sought to enhance their research capabilities by integrating modern technology into an early model Humvee. This presented challenges related to noise, distractions, and sightline issues. Smart Eye emerged as a key collaborator in addressing these issues.

The Smart Eye Solution

Phil Brandt explains that they chose Smart Eye due to its expertise and ability to meet their unique research needs. The RIAS team opted for Smart Eye’s eye tracking system, a comprehensive solution that included a five-camera system for the driver, a four-camera system for the passenger, EEG capability, and the emotions module. This setup enables real-time data collection, providing objective measures of driver and passenger behavior, eye movement, and emotional responses.

Real-World Testing

The RIAS team, alongside Clinical Psychology PhD student Luke Gietzen and graduate student Jessica Van Bree, embarked on live drive scenarios to test Smart Eye’s eye tracking solutions in real-world conditions. This involved driving the Humvee on varied terrains, from gravel to hills, simulating the challenges faced by operators in military settings. The goal was to validate the findings obtained from simulations in controlled environments and observe how the technology performs under different conditions.

Insights and Future Directions

The integration of Smart Eye’s solutions has significantly contributed to RIAS’s understanding of operator behavior, cognitive load, and emotional responses in the challenging environment of heavy tactical vehicles. The ability to capture real-time data and analyze it immediately has impressed the researchers, providing valuable insights into improving safety, efficacy, and efficiency during operations.

The Bottom Line

The collaboration between the University of North Dakota’s RIAS and Smart Eye represents a significant step forward in advancing research on autonomous systems. By addressing the unique challenges presented by heavy tactical vehicles, the multidisciplinary team at RIAS, supported by Smart Eye’s innovative solutions, is paving the way for safer and more efficient interactions between humans and autonomous technologies. As the research continues, the partnership between academia and industry remains crucial for shaping the future of autonomous systems.


Interested in eye tracking for automotive research? Download our Comprehensive Guide to Eye Tracking Technology here, or contact us today to discuss your automotive research project or see a demo!

Written by Ashley McManus
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