Kronos: The Attention-Aware System
You will probably not get to the end of this brief text. Neither would you wait patiently for a stop sign, an image to load or in line to enter the bus. Besides that, you will probably cancel that video that is slowly streaming on your phone right now, because somebody, somewhere is tagging you in something that absolutely cannot wait. The triggers of digital information run in great levels of speed, volume and accessibility. Though visual perception is fast and seemingly effortless, the ease and speed with which we see the world obscures the fact that perception requires active processing.
Today, this is overwhelming our capabilities because it causes us to lose focus more easily, fail tests. We might even end up being burned-out from the abundance of digital triggers and the addictive need to respond to them. To release some of this burden, the human brain adjusts to less attentional output - which gives us an attention-span shorter than that of a goldfish. Can we as graphic designers think of new ways of dealing with visual information?
Winner Drempelprijs 2018 - scroll down to the bottom for the jury rapport.
Stop staring, start playing! The result of the design experiments* is Kronos, an gaze-tracking computer application that offers assignments which can train your attention-span. Each platform exists out of a tiny game, that needs to be completed within a limited amount of time. For example, 'catching' a load of images with your eyes or navigating through a maze of shapes without leaving the shape's surface. At the end of the game a score will be calculated - a score based on the assignment results, but also on your dwell time on subjects and the player’s focus on distractions that are placed on the platform. Together they form the result of your current attention-span.
*The project has naturally run its course through a load of tests, progressing towards the application it now is. Through the text and the video I briefly try to summarize the outcome, but if you are genuinly interested feel free to contact me for my research paper or set up a call to discuss.
For using the game you need an eye-tracker. When I was creating Kronos I used the Tobii Eyetracker C+, which comes with a development kit so it can be altered or further tinkered with. In and about six months I experimented with the possibilities of interactive eye-tracking and developed a 'gaze and click' code for the tracker. This is necessary for the game, as you can gaze at anything for four seconds and the system responds to it - similar to clicking with the mousepad.
While working on the coding part for the tracker, there was also the investigation for the design. By reading a lot of papers and performing tests on what triggers someone's attention (in advertising, when searching for something, playing a game) my own paper became a summary of these connections that are triggering our focus - and what is causing its loss. The result was 'The Attentional Template'.
The Attentional Template
According to 'The Attention Template', there are three stages we go about when we try to absorb information. (1) Alert, (2) Orientation and (3) Control. In order to absorb information, use and remember it, we complete this whole template in our brain. In the second stage, Orientation, we use our suppressive functions to filter the content we need.
(Lack of) Suppressive Function
Nowadays we do not finish this template in our brains. We are easily distracted by multitasking at the same time with (for example) our smartphones, creating a lack of our suppressive functions. By constantly being online we remain in a constant state of Alert, which gives us the attention-span of a goldfish.
The Near Future?
The goal of my product was to change the way we deal with triggers and knowledge absorption in our brain, extend our focus and therefore the length of our attention-span. Just like Tetris, these tiny games must become a habit if you want to prosper from the effects. Want to focus on writing your bachelor thesis, but there is a party going downstairs? Play Kronos. Want to do your job but you are constantly distracted by your phone? Play Kronos. Want to read a book but the pages are too long and there are so many words and you can’t fit the knowledge in your brain? Just play Kronos. Train your brain to focus - stop staring and start playing.
Next to finding new ways for the design field, Kronos can be among the design solutions that helps people deal with information. How can we as designers design for the future consumer if their attention-spans are becoming shorter? Could we actually design to limit the limited attention-span? Just as in Van Bree’s ‘Artificial Ignorance’, where an A.I. reminds you of memories through relevant Google Image searches, instead of showing your actual pictures. As the growth of information will not stop, and the way we interact with information in our brains has changed, I think such design solutions are key to how the attention-span can evolve. But congratulations for now, for reaching the end of this text.
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Winner Drempelprijs 2018
"Camie's enquiry was 'How can I contribute to new ways of dealing with visual information? Can I develop an aid that will help overcome our collectively shared struggle, the trouble with staying focused?' She combined her background as a graphic designer with the code-writing and interactive skills and came up with her own software that registers users' online behaviour with the help of eye-tracking hardware and aims to alter this behaviour. The jury admires Camie's extensive research, both scientific and focused on implementation as well as on the users, hardware and digital craft. Camie has entered an exciting field of yet to be developed graphic interfaces based on neurological research." Full jury report will be published next week.
Jury Commercial Practices: Marina Toeters (by-wire.net) - chairman, Dirk Vis (WdKA) - secretary, Janjoost Jullens (Wolfpack), Susan Bijl (SUSAN BIJL), Rufus Ketting (Natwerk).