Eye tracking video series explores science and technology

Tobii Pro Glasses 2 is part of a new online video series called Function that explores innovations in science and technology.

Professor Daniel Beliavsky wearing Tobii Pro Glasses 2 while playing piano

Click here to watch the video!

The first episode "What Does a Pianist See? | Eye Tracking" was filmed at Steinway Hall in NYC on February 25, 2017, where the eye movements of professional pianist Daniel Beliavsky and his student Charlotte Bennett were recorded while playing several compositions they were familiar with as well as ones that were completely new.

The findings offer unique insight on how both groups look at the keyboard and read sheet music as they play, insights they themselves were not even aware of about their performance.

When reading sheet music the eye tracking revealed that the expert pianist spent less time having to monitor his hand position, and more time concentrating on the notes on the page. He looked at the music approximately 83 percent of the time while the novice spent 58 percent. The expert was scanning ahead vertically and horizontally, showing that one aspect of expertise is the ability to mentally stay a few steps ahead in the sheet.

"Eye tracking would be a very useful teaching tool in the piano studio, giving students immediate feedback on the hidden eccentricities of their performance, and giving teachers a new means to correct and help in their progress," said Professor Daniel Beliavsky, professional pianist and Chair of the Fine Art and Music Department, Yeshiva University.

The eye tracking glasses are equipped with a scene camera, infrared illuminators and four cameras taking up to 100 pictures per second, collecting data of the exact point of where a person is focusing their attention. This data is then mapped and analyzed to reveal unique insights on how long each pianist fixated on the keyboard, their fingers, and the sheet music.

"We created Function because we are passionate about both science and filmmaking. Having done research in eye tracking, we knew this series would be a great opportunity, and we'll be releasing more eye tracking videos in the coming months," said Patrick Adelman and Munna Koorath, Co-founders, Fractal Media who is behind the production Function.

"The pianist study is just one of the many different ways eye tracking can be applied for teaching," said Tom Englund, President of Tobii Pro. "We can instantly understand the visual skills that goes into being an expert and offer a path of instruction for improving upon it or sharing it widely."

Musical Pieces Performed in the Video
*All pieces are in the public domain
- Sergei Rachmaninoff: Prelude No. 2, Op. 3
- Franz Schubert: Impromptu No. 3, Op. 90
- J.S. Bach: Italian Concerto, BWV 971, movement 1
- Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata, No. 8, Op. 13, Movement 2
- Bach's d minor Prelude No. 6 from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, BWV 851