Applying eye-tracking techniques to landscape evaluation: towards an understanding of walkability perception

Bernasconi, Claudia, H. Harold Greene, Alan Hoback, N. Ebony Fails, M. Brittany Polisuk, Perrier Greene, Alena Bower, and Mariarosaria DiPalo

This study investigated public perception of a walking environment in Detroit, Michigan, pairing eye-tracking technology and landscape evaluation techniques in order to establish connections between perceptions of the general public and characteristics of the street environment. In the first phase of the study, we employed landscape evaluation techniques shifting the target from the natural landscape to the urban landscape and referred to the psychophysical method (Lothian 1999; Daniel, 2001). In a second phase of the project we utilized an eye-tracking tool that allowed us to monitor eye fixations, i.e. the spots in the picture the eye is focusing on, as observers viewed and rated the urban scenes on a computer screen. This allowed for a more in detail understanding of what is really looked at within the scene. Results allowed us to determine which elements in the scene were looked at more often and for longer periods of time when the observers were questioned separately on each of the five descriptors of walkability (i.e. aesthetic quality, orientation, comfort, safety, and security). Preliminary findings will be presented together with considerations of the applicability of eye-tracking techniques to landscape assessments.