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I-Spy: EyeTracker to Let Advertisers Watch Users Via Webcam as They Surf

Ever been paranoid that the webcam on your laptop is recording what you're looking at online? Now there's a company that does just that, on behalf of the world's biggest advertisers! EyeTrackShop builds panels of users who agree to watch ads on their computers while their webcams send data back to advertisers showing what they looked at and what they ignored (video below).

The system adds a new level of intimacy to market research by removing from the equation the opinion of the consumer herself. Advertisers have long known that if you ask shoppers what they think, they often lie or conceal the truth without realizing they're doing it.

Eyetracking has been around for a while, but has mostly been used for one-off studies that have tended to demonstrate "banner blindness," the concept that users don't even see web ad banners.

EyeTrackShop, however, delivers results in a 48-hour turnaround period, meaning in theory an advertiser could run a campaign and adjust it every two days depending on the eyeball results. Jeff Bander, svp client services tells BNET that Eyetrack hopes to do real-time live feedback eyeball tracking by the end of the year. Google (GOOG) and Procter & Gamble (PG) are current or previous clients.

Don't worry. EyeTrackShop only recruits volunteers for its surveys. User-panels come from client loyalty programs, and consumers are often given some kind of reward for taking part. Once recruited they line their heads up with a silhouette on a web page and then look at some test dots while EyeTrackShop calibrates their web cam. The result is that EyeTrackShop can follow users' eyes around any ad or web page, producing a heat map.

The test above was done for Reebok's ReeTone shoes, with the obvious result that people like looking at women's butts and the less obvious result that the dog got more attention than the company's logo. This heat map was produced for a test of Google ads in Sweden:

EyeTrackShop isn't the only company offering this service. Etre in Europe does something similar. Here's one of their heat maps for a Virgin ad showing that few people looked at the actual offer being made:

Coming next: The Futurama Eyephone!