Multi-monitor setups are more and more prevalent, however while the extra screen space and information that can be displayed may be welcome it’s all the more easy to miss important changes to some data source stream upon your screens. With so many different programs and alerts vying for our attention all the time people can filter out important updates alongside the unimportant ones. A new software system called Diff Displays helps you keep up to date with changes of the data displayed on your multi-monitor setup by keeping an eye upon your eyeballs.
Tracking visual changes on unattended displays can be very difficult for users. Often information can be time-sensitive and much more valuable or important when it is new, so a system that highlights these changes would be of great utility value to some people or professions.
Human-computer interaction researchers at the University of St Andrews have developed some Windows software called Diff Displays. The software uses a camera to track a user’s eye movement to determine which screen they are looking at and starts to highlight changes on any other displays within the multi-monitor setup. When you look back at the “unattended display” you will see the changes since you last glanced there highlighted to make it easy for you to see what’s new.
The Diff Displays program offers a number of different methods with which to monitor unobserved changes. The research team has tested all of them and found they all have some merit. The best change highlighting method probably depends upon what kind of data you are watching. In the future hybrid methods may be designed.
Per Ola Kristensson, one of the system creators, said “all of the visualizations reduced the number of times a user switched attention between displays by about half”, which is a good result. Users feel less stress and pressure to constantly flick their attention around, scanning for updates. “You can rest assured that when you look back, it’ll tell you what matters” suggests Kristensson.
Particular professions that may benefit from this system, according to MIT Technology Review, include air-traffic controllers and financial analysts. Similar software would also probably be beneficial to stock market gurus, journalists, security professionals or even international terrorists watching out for John McClane.
Diff Displays Windows software is available for FREE, just scroll down to the bottom of this page and click on the link.