Researchers at the ETH Zurich have developed eye-tracking software for use in pilot training. The development arose in collaboration with Swiss International Air Lines, NASA, Lufthansa Aviation Training and the University of Oregon.

In the cockpit pilots have to process an enormous quantity of visual, acoustic and spatial information, writes the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) in a statement. This so-called scanning of the flight systems is something that pilots internalize during their training. But even experienced instructors find it hard to judge whether a student pilot is looking at the right instruments at the crucial moment.

Researchers at the ETH Zurich have now developed software for use in pilot training. This camera-​based eye-​tracking technology allows precise monitoring of a person’s eye movements, according to the statement. “iAssyst”, as the ETH researchers named the software, integrates video, audio and simulator recordings while simultaneously displaying the pilots’ gaze patterns. It can help improve training in flight simulators.

The idea for developing the software came from Swiss, writes the statement. Alongside the airline, the American space administration NASALufthansa Aviation Training and the University of Oregon were involved in the research. Lufthansa Aviation Training provided the consortium with technical expertise and the infrastructure in the simulator. The Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) met around 40 per cent of the project costs.

According to the ETH, aviation is not the only research field in which eye tracking can be used. It could also be used in medical training, for example, where doctors use simulators to practise performing operations on an artificial body.

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