A new tool can track how alert you are at your workplace by just measuring your pupil size. A burst of photographs are taken every time the you unlock your smartphone, says a new study.
The findings, published in the journal ACM Digital Library,
showed that the pupil-scanning reliably predicted alertness.
‘People's eyes are affected by their alertness. When they are alert, their pupils dilate to make it easier to take in information and when they are drowsy, their pupils contract.’
"Since our alertness fluctuates, if we can find a pattern it will be very useful to manage and schedule our day," said lead author Vincent W.S. Tseng from the Cornell University in New York.
Traditional methods of analyzing alertness tend to be cumbersome, often including devices that must be worn. Researchers wanted to create a way to measure alertness unobtrusively and continuously.
"Since people use their phones very frequently during the day, we were thinking we could use phones as an instrument to understand and measure their alertness," Tseng said.
"And since people's eyes are affected by their alertness, we were thinking that when people are looking at their phones, we could use a moment to measure their alertness at that point," Tseng added.
When people are alert, the sympathetic nervous system causes the pupils to dilate to make it easier to take in information. When they're drowsy, the parasympathetic nervous system causes the pupils to contract, the team said.
For the study, the research team included two studies conducted over two years.
The new tool could be particularly useful in health care, since medical professionals often work long hours doing intricate and important work. For example, clinicians typically look at devices during surgery, and a front-facing camera on the devices could track their alertness throughout procedures, Tseng said.
But understanding alertness patterns could be helpful to people in many kinds of workplaces, Tseng added.