Researchers have attempted to track the eye movements for well over a century. By knowing what is being looked at, it’s possible to understand what is driving visual attention.

This has been important for psychologists and other human behavior researchers, and has become increasingly used by people working in other related fields, such as neuromarketing.

As time has passed, the technology and software have improved as well. This has formed the eye tracking field of today, in which incisive discoveries are more accessible than ever through the use of advanced eye tracking software.

There are various options available for eye tracking, and some of these are offered free-of-charge. While this can be a great benefit for many users, this advantage is dependent on the software working well – if it doesn’t function as hoped, or offer the capabilities required, then the price doesn’t matter.

What’s on the List

While this list features 10 eye tracking software programs, we also (quite literally) looked at several others. Those that have been left off the list include deprecated or non-functional programs, as well as those that are not truly free.

Below we have listed 10 eye tracking software programs, showing whether or not certain functions exist, and the accessibility of them.

The Table

free eye tracking software table

The list above captures the essentials of the free eye tracking software that we have elucidated further below.

xLabs

Built as a browser extension for Google Chrome, this startup is the result of 2 years R&D by the four co-founders. You can install the software directly into your browser here.

positivePros

+ Very easy to install
+ Easy to use
+ Works in multiple platforms

negativeCons

– Only works with webcams (decreased accuracy)
– Doesn’t allow integrated stimulus presentation
– No simple way to obtain the data
– No data analysis options
– No support

GazePointer

The GazePointer program is straightforward to install, and runs on Windows, making it one of the more widely accessible programs on this list.

positivePros

+ Easy to install

negativeCons

– Only works with webcams (decreased accuracy)
– Doesn’t allow integrated stimulus presentation
– No support
– No data analysis options

MyEye

MyEye has been designed for use by people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neuromuscular disease. It is in the Beta phase of development.

positivePros

+ Easy to install

negativeCons

– No support or even documentation
– Doesn’t allow integrated stimulus presentation
– No data analysis options
– No simple way to obtain the data

Ogama

Ogama is open source software developed at the Free University of Berlin.

positivePros

+ Allows basic stimulus presentation
+ Provides basic data analysis options

negativeCons

– No support
– No updates for the last two years

openEyes

This open source software allows eye tracking from both infrared and visible spectrum illumination, using Matlab.

positivePros

+ Can be used with webcams and infrared eye trackers

negativeCons

– Requires Matlab (commercial software) and working knowledge of Matlab
– Doesn’t allow integrated stimulus presentation
– No support
– No data analysis options

PyGaze

This software runs in Python, and was published by three researchers (from Oxford University, Aix-Marseille University, and Utrecht University) in 2014.

positivePros

+ Stimulus presentation (requires knowledge of Python)
+ Data analysis (requires knowledge of Python)

negativeCons

– Requires a good working knowledge of Python
– Not much support

OpenGazer

OpenGazer is designed to increase the accessibility of computer use, and was originally supported by Samsung and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation.

positivePros

+ Potentially compatible with Apple OS (although requires programming knowledge)

negativeCons

– Only works with webcams (decreased accuracy)
– Requires Linux (and knowledge of how to use Linux)
– No support

TurkerGaze

TurkerGaze is a software program developed by researchers at Princeton. The system runs in Linux and is dependent on several other Linux programs to function.

positivePros

+ Provides basic data analysis options

negativeCons

– Best used with a head restraint
– Requires Linux (and knowledge of how to use Linux)

GazeParser / Simple Gaze Tracker

This software consists of two components: GazeParser (for stimulus presentation, data conversion, and analysis), and SimpleGazeTracker is (used for gaze recording) with the use of Python.

positivePros

+ Can perform stimulus presentation and data analysis (although requires knowledge of Python)
+ Provides basic data analysis options (with use of Python coding)

negativeCons

– Requires a motion capture or machine vision camera
– Requires a chinstrap / head restraint to restrict head movement
– Requires a good working knowledge of Python

ITU Gaze Tracker

Originally developed by the Gaze Group at the University of Copenhagen, ITU Gaze Tracker is an open source platform designed to increase the accessibility of technology.

positivePros

+ Easy to install

negativeCons

– Requires building own infrared eye tracker (if not using webcam)
– No support


The Verdict

While the free eye tracking software can be a fun experiment – and the feats they pull off are sometimes still impressive (particularly when constructed by small teams) – none are able to meet the requirements of eye trackers commonly used in work and research. Making discoveries, and uncovering results, requires that eye tracking is accurate, both in space and time.

It is due to these drawbacks that eye tracking software requires a certain amount of credibility – getting past peer-review to publish research will be an even more difficult process if the software itself isn’t widely recognized as leading to legitimate results.

 

gazepointer

A screenshot of GazePointer.

There is – as always – the potential for things to go wrong, and if you encounter any problems while figuring the software out, it’s unlikely that you will receive much support. As many of the programs have been created by individuals or small groups, chances are that they won’t have the time to help users or fix inevitable software bugs.

There are even more things to consider – are there any stimulus presentation options? Can it be integrated with other software, such as PsychoPy, E-Prime, or even in-browser presentation? How is the fixation algorithm constructed? Is the data analyzable, or even accessible?

 –

xlabs screenshot

A screenshot of xLabs.

This could also mean understanding the source code to provide explanations about its use. For a programmer this could be relatively straightforward, but will likely involve a level of expertise well above the average for most people working with eye tracking.

For most of the software, the features are rarely fitted to the ideal situation.

Critical Features

The fundamental problem with many of the free eye tracking softwares above is that they only incorporate data from webcams. This of course promises more accessibility to the user, yet will not be able to deliver the same level of accuracy as infrared eye trackers.

 ITU eye tracker screenshot

A screenshot of the ITU Gaze Tracker.

A critical problem with the software above also comes down to trust. If you’re planning on using the software for research, then you need to be able to defend its use to the research community – this isn’t difficult with companies that have already built trust through years of work and communication, but will unavoidably be more difficult with small startup operations.

What iMotions Offers

Carrying out research and work with eye tracking in iMotions is both simple and comprehensive. A whole range of features are readily available, allowing you to carry out advanced research in a plug-and-play solution. Some of the features are listed below.

List of features and metrics
  • Individual & aggregate gaze replays
  • Automated AOI generation allows for tracking of an area throughout a video
  • Automated metrics such as Time to First Fixation (TTFF), time spent, ratio, revisits, fixation count, mouse clicks, keystrokes etc.
  • Real-time recording
  • Static & dynamic heatmaps
  • Create live and post markers
  • Raw data including X,Y coordinates of eye position, pupil size, & distance to the screen
  • Well validated in hundreds of publications
  • Continuous support
  • Seamless synchronization with other biometric sensors, such as facial expression analysis, EEG, GSR, ECG, EMG, and more
  • Integration with 20+ eye tracking models from a range of vendors such as Tobii, SMI, EyeTech, Eye Tribe, GazePoint, etc – both screen-based and eye tracking glasses
  • Simple installation and setup
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Presentation of screen-based multimedia stimuli (images, videos, websites, games, software interfaces and 3D environments)
  • Compatible with mobile devices / external interfaces
  • Real-world recording with glasses or remote eye trackers
  • Ability to expand use with API
  • Integrated study setup and design
  • Integrated data quality assurance tools
  • Static & dynamic areas of interest (AOIs), manual and semi-automated options

Expanding human behavior research methods to include other sensors will mean more data, and ultimately more incisive findings. iMotions is not only the research platform that is designed (and continually updated) for this purpose – it also includes an easy-to-use setup with a vast array of accurate eye tracking features.

While the price tag – or rather lack of price tag – can be an attractive aspect, if the tracking is slow or inaccurate then little can be done. Accuracy and reliability are necessary when it comes to creating a deeper understanding of human behavior – and that’s difficult to put a price on.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the advantages and disadvantages of free eye tracking software. To learn more about how iMotions can help you carry out flawless eye tracking experiments, and to see which advanced features are available, get in touch and schedule a demo, or download our free eye tracking guide below.

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