Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Graphically Representing Perceptual Attention-Levels

Here's an idea. I wonder if you could graphically represent the differing levels of perceptual attention we give to things in our environment.

I'm imagining something like this. It could display an animated scene of a person is walking down the street. The viewer would see things from just behind the person, so they are seeing pretty much the same view that person does.

But rather than the scene looking like normal, the appearance of items in it would be modified in order to show how much attention the person is giving to them. So the more attention being given to an item, the bolder and brigher the item would be displayed, and the less attention being given to it, the more muted and washed out it would be displayed.

Items being given low-levels of attention might be grouped together, ignoring the specific items within the group. Like say there's a store front containing a window containing a display. As the person walks past it, they might just treat the whole store-front as a single unit. So perhaps a border could be drawn around it. And perhaps such groupings could be labelled with the category the person's perception puts them in, say 'store-front' or 'building detail'.

The view could rotate around to track what the person is looking at, and the scene would dynamically update to show the varying attention-levels being given to things.

Attention-levels would cahnges as the person is walking along, as things happen within the environment (like a car drives past), and as the person undertakes actions (like talking to someone on the phone).

Say they get a call on their mobile. If the phone is in their pocket, then the calling sound could create bright radiating lines eminating from their pocket.

And as they go to take it out and start talking to the person, the amount of attention given to other things in their environment could fade. And the words coming out of the phone, and their words, could be shown on the screen, with a level of brightness indicating the amount of attention given to them.

You could show situations where there are 'significant' things that are happening, but which the person doesn't notice because the area where it's happening might not being given much attention.

Like someone being mugged on the other side of the street, which they don't notice because they're busy talking on the phone and watching a sports car driving past.

It would be interesting to see how well such a graphical representation of attention-levels could be implemented. And, if it could be implemented well, whether it could be used to useful effect in simulations or computer games.

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