Eyetracking within public spaces

How the development of biometrics can affect the quality of the built environment

Until recently, devices for biometric measurements, i.e. studying the reaction and structure of the human body, were reserved exclusively for research centers. Along with the miniaturization of components and the decrease in their production costs, they often accompany us in our everyday life. Nowadays, it is no surprise that you can unlock your computer or phone using your fingerprint or through face recognition. Watches are able to count our steps, monitor pulse and skin tension.

Nowadays, designers are beginning to look for new methods that will help to understand the reactions of users in order to have better awareness of their health and comfort. It is worth mentioning that the concept of neuromarketing has been in use since the beginning of the 21st century, but previously it was used by companies to increase product sales through suitable stylistics, ignoring the impact of a city shaped by advertising on human functioning.

Dominance of the sense of sight

The dominance of the human visual sense was scientifically proven as early as in the 1980s. One of the first studies was the experiment conducted by professor Francis B. Colavita, based on the observation of the audio-visual reaction of patients. He unequivocally determined that sight is the dominant sense in situations of intense human stimulation with a number of stimuli.

Research conducted in 2015 by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen (the Netherlands) confirmed those earlier assumptions. The study was conducted on a group of 7,500 people from 13 countries in Asia, America, Europe and Africa, who were tasked with reporting on their everyday lives   In this case, too, scientists confirmed that sight is the dominant sense, and it is the record of visual stimuli in our memory that is the strongest. Interestingly, it turned out impossible to establish a hierarchy of the remaining senses, which they found to depend on the place of origin of the research participants, resulting in a theory that the hierarchy of senses is a function of biological and cultural conditions alike.

Studies of a space of Polish cities.

In an experiment carried out by Designbotic in cooperation with Roark Studio, the impact of large-format advertising on the perception of Polish city spaces was examined. The selected public spaces include the Market Squares in Wroclaw and Poznan, the “Manhattan” Shopping Center in Gdansk, the “Central” Department Store in Bialystok and the intersection of Marszałkowska Street and Al. Jerozolimskie in Warsaw.

The study compared the original photos of cities with their modified versions that showed what a city space dominated by advertising might look like. Only in the case of Warsaw, the original photo from July this year was used, showing the immediate surroundings of the Rotunda building with large-format advertisements displayed on all nearby buildings. It is worth recalling that on 25th February this year, by the decision of the Mazowieckie Province Governor, the so-called landscape act aimed at regulating the location and form of advertising media in the city space was annulled. 


In the study, selected spaces were presented to 30 people whose eyeball movement was registered using an eye-tracking device. Precisely recorded measurements made it possible to learn how human eyesight reacts to the city space. Subsequent analysis can reveal which elements are observed first, which ones attract our attention, and which ones our eyes most often return to.

In the first two seconds, the observers scanned the entire space evenly, but as the time passed their focus returned to the areas occupied by advertisements more often and for longer periods. As a result, they spent as much as 35% of the time watching advertising content that dominates the sense of sight, despite the fact that they occupied a relatively small area in the photos.

On the other hand, public spaces devoid of advertising elements allowed for eyeball movement that was more unrestrained and individual for each person, with a focus on architectural features, infrastructure and people present in the photos.