Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Eye tracker project.

I mentioned this project in a reply to a comment here a while back. This Honda ST1100 is the platform for a prototype project. I was teaching an Advanced Rider Training course. There was also a cornering clinic for instructors being conducted while the regular students were in the classroom. One of the instructors brought this bike up to give it a run and charge the battery so to speak! Since it was available, I took the chance to snap a couple of photos. Since this wasn't an artistic endeavour I didn't worry about moving the gal's gear. Besides, I was rushed for time. My blog pictures are art in a hurry!

Educating people in any area is a complicated process. So this isn't meant to make the process sound simple. However, there's a basic flow. There's a distant point the student needs to reach. In order to get the student there the educator needs to know where the student is right now. That will determine the pathway to the target.

The Eye Tracker project was started to establish a process for evaluating where rider skills are at a given time. Since "head and eyes" are such a critical element in riding, the idea was to find out how well riders were doing here. We'd like to know how effectively new riders use this skill compared to more experienced riders, for example. We'd also like to know if there's any sort of baseline that goes with different experience levels. For example, would there be a "typical" level we'd expect to see at five years, or ten years, or whatever?

The system itself is pretty cool, if somewhat primitive. Contained within the wooden box where the trunk would be is a laptop loaded with some neat software. This software has been developed by an outside source who agreed to let us use it. There is also some auxilliary equipment in the lower part of the box and in the saddle bags.

A rider dons a pair of goggles under their helmet. The goggles contain a video camera and some sensors that are aimed at the rider's pupils. Once everything is adjusted and calibrated, the rider goes off and enjoys some time on the bike. In the last outing where we tried to get data on a variety of riders each was asked to follow a prescribed route. It was also planned to be long enough that the rider would soon forget about the cameras and revert to their natural patterns.

Once the data is collected, everything is synched by the software. A video playback is available. It shows the road in front of the rider. Superimposed on the video is a small dot. It shows exactly where the rider's pupils were focused. The longer the rider focused on a spot, the larger the dot grows. It's pretty fascinating.

It's revealing for the rider to see the video of their ride. As expected, newer riders tended to have less eye movement than experienced riders. On the other hand, those who had been riding longer didn't always have better performances with head and eyes. There were several riders of ten or more years riding time that were looking three painted lines ahead of the front wheel in curves. Which is not unexpected considering that the leading cause of rider fatalities in our state is failing to negotiate corners. Investigations of where the crashes happened shows the riders simply weren't looking far enough ahead. The riders committed without having all the information.

Like I said, this was a prototype. More of a feasibility study. We'd like to get funding to do a much larger study. It would be a tremendous tool in helping find out what riders need.

Something else just occurred to me. The bike looks a lot like a Good Humour ice cream rig, doesn't it? I'm keeping my options open for a second career. Maybe it's time to go hunt up Conchscooter in the Florida Keys. I'm sure he could point me to a place I could ride around and sell ice cream to the masses!

Miles and smiles,



Bryce said...

Attach some cowbells to the under carriage.

Good Humor Ice Cream trucks have
bells right?

Then you'll hear them coming.

Now why the circle and targets
painted on the side front and rear?

So maybe somebody knows what to aim for? An ideal place to use a
water pistol, especially on a
hot day!

Steve Williams said...

Not only is this a fascinating piece of technology but a really insightful bit of biofeedback. Just sitting here thinking about what my eyes would be doing on an imaginary ride is a bit unsettling. I fear my photographer eyes might have primacy over the rider eyes.

I wonder though if the black dot is a completely reliable indication of what a rider actually sees and processes versus where the center of their vision is focused? Seems like it is overlooking the power of peripheral vision. Larry Bird (a famous basketball player for any youngsters reading) made effective use of his peripheral vision.

Regardless I wish I could have those googles on my noggin for awhile...

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Anonymous said...

I wonder if they've tried the eye tracker, riding through traffic to see what distractions and hazards we focus on as riders.

How embarrasing would that be watching the playback as the red dot grows larger and larger on the attractive pedestrian waiting to cross the street!

Lucky said...

Really fascinating stuff. I wish I could use this myself every year or so to see if and how my habits change. Might be a great way to "tune-up" one's abilities.


irondad said...

I was thinking more of a little music box that plays "Born to be Wild" or something.

As to the crosshairs, that's something that shows up in the program for aligning the sensors, etc.

Steve W,
Periphal vision is certainly a great tool for gathering information on possible hazards. When it comes to cornering, though, it's essential to keep one's nose pointed at the target. As you know, that's what provides directional control. It's this area we're primarily focused on. That, and how far ahead the rider looks as they ride.

Have you ever seen a rider in a corner that seems to be making a lot of small turns instead of one smooth one? The bike is following where the nose is pointed. Look at the exit, look back right in front of the bike, look at the exit, look back, etc. The bike does the same thing. Lean, straighten, lean, straighten.

Steve L,
Funny you should mention the attractive pedestrian. I believe that's happened once or twice!

irondad said...

I know it looks like I skipped you when I published a reply. Your comment came in at the same time I hit the "publish" button!

Anyway, we can all use some sort of external feedback to brush up. It's amazing how habits we're not even aware of creep into our riding, isn't it?

Steven V said...

very interesting study, thanks for posting the info on it.

I'm thinking that the bike's paintjob is good too, interesting enough to turn some heads - which would be a good thing in this "I didn't see the bike" world.

Just last week I was thinking it'd be smart to paint a bike the same black and which used by police, but without any specific police markings, to see if it catches car drivers' attention and thus becomes more visible.

Balisada said...

Sounds like a very interesting project.

I kind of wish I could see if I am looking where I am supposed to when I ride, but the "good humor motorcycle" looks a lot bigger than my Rebel, and I would be reluctant to try such a change in cc's.

I wonder if the folks in class that seem resistant to teaching would benefit from something like this, or their resistance would expand to this.

Conchscooter said...

Malted milk with the little wooden spoon please. And a cup holder so I can eat and ride one handed like my cager neighbors.

irondad said...

Stephen V,
Actually, most of the police bikes are blue these days. Sort of that BMW Blue, you know? Although I think you could put a rotating red light on your helmet and drivers still wouldn't see you!

As much time you have on the Rebel, now, I think you'd be surprised what you could handle these days.

You're right in that feedback like this would do a lot to change attitudes. Maybe we should give dinner certificates to uncoachable riders to get them to check it out.

I'm sorry I'm out of malted milk and cup holders. How about a fudgesicle? I have a special running on the ones with really long, gummy sticks. You stick them to the inside of Triumph windshields and lean forward to lick them.

Dean W said...

I took part in the initial eye-tracker project. A few times riders would come back and be shocked- or in denial- about how much time they spent looking down in front of them. That is, their nose might be pointed the right way, but their eyes were right down in front of the bike. some went away thoughtful; some decided the system was broken. (It doesn't work well with the glare off eyeglasses, so my run was non-conclusive. I seemed to be mostly right... ?)

Moral of this tale: you can lead a rider to the corner, but you can't make them turn their head.

Along those lines, some days I wish I had a cervical collar with a remote control motor drive I could fit to students. Push a button, (buzzz of motor) instant head turn...

Krysta in Milwaukee said...

What a cool thing!!! Wish I could try that. Karl gets after me about not turning my head to look around more, but I do look with my eyes... ahead, mirror, ahead, other mirror, occasional bits of scenery.

There's a pizza shop in downtown Milwaukee that has a scooter w/ delivery box parked in front of the shop. Never seen it in use, but I'm sure they actually deliver that way. Perfect for the city.

I'll take a fudgecicle, please, or if you're out maybe one of those orange cream things?

Steven said...

Officers riding blue? Hmmmm. I guess we're just old fashioned here in Georgia (southeast USA, not being attacked by Russians):

Alpharetta's officers ride white
Our neighbor Roswell rides black bikes. I like the white look better.