A visual search is the act of scanning your environment for an object that is among other items and distractions. This type of search can take place with or without eye movement and the ability to find your target object has been intensively researched in the past 40 years.
Good examples of visual search games would be the “Where’s Waldo?” cartoons and the childhood game of
I Spy” Often times, people associate eye movement as an indicator of attention to stimuli, however, this may not be the case. Many studies have proven that eye movements are independent of attention, there fore when someone looks like they are not paying attention when, in fact, they are.
There are several types of visual searches. The two main types of searches are feature search and conjunction search. In ‘feature searching’ is a parallel process. Your brain separates the features of targets and all the distractions by a single property. An example of this is when you are searching for a red dot among blue squares.
Conjunction searches happen when the target you are searching for shares multiple similarities with all the distractions. An example of this is when searching for a black horizontal line hidden among lines that are made of yellow horizontal lines and yellow with black stripes. Differentiating the target line among similar distracting lines can be a little more challenging than with ‘feature search’ techniques.
One way to select object information is with visual orientation. This is when head movements, eye movements or a combination of both are oriented towards the target object. This process is known as foveation. This is where your eyes will fixate on an object of interest and your change your orientation to where the image will fall on the fovea. The fovea is the central area of your eyes where the image is at its sharpest.
Researchers have found ways to digitize the process of visual searching and have given new technologies based on visual searches. This has lead to technological advances in image recognition, optical character recognition and facial detection software. There are medical, government and commercial applications for this technology that will change the way we shop, organize information and fight crime.