Sept. 18 - A hospital in the UK is using eye-tracking technology to improve sign placement in its corridor system. The so-called ''wayfinding'' tests are designed to ease the confusion and stress often caused by navigating unfamilar hospital hallways, as Jim Drury reports.
Finding your way around a hospital can be stressful. But this eye tracking software offers a solution, helping hospital designers determine the best place for signs - and clarifying their messages. A Bournemouth University team led by Dr Jan Weiner tested 20 volunteers who had to navigate nearby Poole Hospital while wearing the glasses. SOUNDBITE (English) DR JAN WIENER (PRON: Yann Veener), SENIOR PSYCHOLOGY LECTURER AT BOURNEMOUTH UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "We have a wireless eye track here that consists of a pair of glasses with two cameras - one camera facing the eye and recording the eye movements and the other camera is recording what the participants are actually seeing themselves...." The two video signals are transmitted via radio and fed into state-of-the-art eye tracking software. SOUNDBITE (English) DR JAN WIENER (PRON: Yann Veener), SENIOR PSYCHOLOGY LECTURER AT BOURNEMOUTH UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "We can pretty much monitor their thought process while they're solving a task. So in this case with this wireless eye tracker we get videos and we overlay the gaze ... and we have to go through the videos and we have to record and transcribe what the participants are actually looking at." Built on a hillside, Poole Hospital contains a myriad of narrow corridors and annexes. Director of nursing and patients services, Martin Smits, says patients often arrive late and flustered for appointments, after losing their way. SOUNDBITE) (English) MARTIN SMITS, DIRECTOR OF NURSING AND PATIENT SERVICES AT POOLE HOSPITAL, SAYING: "I think we tend to forget that the vast majority of people coming to hospital have an issue that they need help with and a particular health problem that they want to get sorted and so they're already very anxious, and when they come to hospital they're keen to get where they need to get as quickly and effectively as possible." Wiener says scientific research on signage is long overdue. The tests already conducted have led to design changes in parts of the hospital and fewer late appointments as a result. The researchers believe their work could have profound implications for signage, not only in hospitals, but in airports, shopping malls and large public buildings as well.