Writing is a complex human activity. The writer has to compose a coherent message and formulate it in accordance with linguistic rules (grammar, spelling), all the while taking the characteristics of the potential reader into account. The ability to manage all these various mental activities, as well as their time course, can be regarded as an indicator of the writer’s expertise (Alamargot & Chanquoy, 2001). For the cognitive science researchers we are (but also for people interested in these questions), identifying the rules that govern the engagement and course of these mental processes is an essential step towards a greater understanding of writing and processing (Levy & Ransdell, 1996). The Eye and Pen software was designed to help researchers reach this goal (Chesnet & Alamargot, 2005; Alamargot, Chesnet, Dansac & Ros, 2006).
Eye and Pen can be mainly (but not exclusively) used in the context of handwriting studies, whatever the graphic format (from text to drawing). The Eye and Pen software was designed to allow the synchronous recording of handwriting (by means of a digitizing tablet: coordinates and state of the pen) and eye movements (via an optical eye-tracking system: eye coordinates in the task environment). The conjunction of these two signals allows us to study the synchronization between eye and pen movements during pausing and writing periods. For instance, it makes it possible to study not only the visual control of graphomotor execution, but also the reading of the text in order to revise it and the consultation of documentary sources with a view to summarizing them. Eye and Pen allows users to conduct these investigations in a continuous way, without interrupting the activity underway or increasing cognitive load.
In short, this software makes it possible to establish a link between the visual input of writing (gazes on documentary sources and/or text produced so far) and its graphomotor output (pausing and writing phases, drawing). This link can be studied in various situations and media (paper, computer screen, screen tablet, etc.) The Eye and Pen software can be regarded as a type of digital video recorder, which allows users to watch and play-replay the process of graphic generation and associated eye movements as often as they wish. A semi-automated coding system enables users to characterize and classify ocular and graphomotor events.
Eye and Pen can also be used without an eyetracking device to only record handwriting data, for example, in a school classroom.
Some tablet manufacturer (ask your reseller) also sells true inking pen for their devices. Thus, one may use a sheet of paper (or even a booklet made of many pages) on the tablet. Handwriting situation is then very “natural”, with a subject writing with a pencil on a sheet of paper, the tablet serves as a “place mat” the subject can move to feel comfortable.
Eye and Pen has two different modes of operation:
the acquisition mode, allowing the recording of data and stimuli presentation (audio, video, text, picture);
the analysis mode, allowing to display, select (with various filters) and edit data (in text format, to be imported into spreadsheet or statistical analysis software).
Publications about Eye and Pen
The very first paper about d’Eye and Pen (2005) is in french:
Chesnet, D., & Alamargot, D. (2005). Analyses en temps réel des activités oculaires et graphomotrices du scripteur: intérêt du dispositif ‘Eye and Pen’. L’Année Psychologique,105(3), 477-520.
The “official” (international) citation of Eye and Pen is:
Alamargot, D., Chesnet, D., Dansac, C. & Ros, C. (2006). Eye and Pen: a new device to study reading during writing. Behaviour Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 38(2), 287-299.
A new paper was just published:
Chesnet, D., Solier, C., Bordas, B. & Perret, C. (2002). A quick briefing on the new version of Eye and Pen (version 3.01): news and update. Reading and Writing. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-022-10267-5
System and hardware requirements
Windows Seven, Windows 8/8.1., Windows 10.
You will have to use a user account with administrative rights to be able to install and use Eye and Pen.
Free disk space
60MB for a complete installation (with samples), plus space needed for recordings and analyses.
min. 1024 MB with Windows Vista and later.
A minimum resolution of 1024×768 is recommanded (32 MB of video RAM).
A free USB slot is required for the SafeNet Sentinel dongle (security lock key) required with Eye and Pen 1 and 2.
Every tablet supplied with a Wintab32 compatible driver for Windows is supported by Eye and Pen.
In general, installation of the tablet’s driver also installs a file named WINTAB2.DLL into Windows directory.
Please note that not every manufacturer has battery-less pencils and/or inking pen.
The list below is not exhaustive, but shows a number of compatible device manufacturers, including the main vendor on the market. Many “historic” tablet manufacturer stopped this activity (Aiptek, Genius, Hitachi, Numonics, Oce, Seiko, etc.) within the last 5 years.
S.R. research models Eyelink I, Eyelink II and Eyelink 1000
Applied Science Laboratories ASL 504 (serial link)
SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI) iViewX (version 1.05 and above).
Note about remote eyetrackers
Unless major changes, we do not plan to support remote eyetrackers because they are hardly usable in a handwriting situation: the camera(s) should be below the participant’s line of gaze. Then , it is not possible to place a tablet “under” the screen.
It may be usable with an LCD tablet, but when the movements of the subject’s forearm masks the camera, the eye is lost for a while. To limit theses drawback, you’d be to setup a strongly constraining situation.
Similar tests have been conducted at S.R. Research with the Eyelink1000 Remote eyetracker and ended with same results.
In general, remote optic eyetrackers are not advisable: most of them were buit to be located below a display screen, not about a tablet on a desk. This leads to problems of adaptation, coordinates liability, while imposing body posture constraints to the subjects.
The authors of Eye and Pen 1 and 2 are David Chesnet and Denis Alamargot. Version 3 was developped by David Chesnet with scientific guidance of members of the Ecriture (writing) team of the CeRCA lab.
David Chesnet is a computer engineer at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme et de la Société of the University of Poitiers (UAR 3565 CNRS),
Denis Alamargot: was formerly senior lecturer at the CeRCA laboratory (UMR 7295 CNRS and University of Poitiers), now professor, researcher in developmental cognitive psychology at the laboratory Cognition Humaine & Artificielle (CHart) of the University of Paris Est Créteil (EA4004) .
Picture credits: most of the pictures on this site are from Yves Almecija (CeRCA, UMR 7295 CNRS)
Eye and Pen is a software that evolve with its users.
This means that it was built in function of our research goals (and those of our partners) and it will be enhanced to fulfill the needs of the greatest possible number of users.
The Keep in touch page hosts a contact form which can be used to submit features requests. Depending on the requests, the amount of work required to implement them and of the coherence between these requests and the software’s objectives, we may release a software update as a “patch” (uploaded into the “Updates” section of the “Downloads” menu) or register and “prioritize” requests to treat them later as a “bloc” to release an Eye and Pen upgrade.
The list of supported eyetrackers is thin, but any unsupported eyetracker may become supported. If you’re interested in Eye and Pen, but your device is not supported, please get in touch with us (via email to the support) !
The “Roadmap” lists enhancements we plan to add to Eye and Pen. Some are drawn from requests and suggestions from users.
Roadmap to version 4.0
Add module to segment handwriting into strokes
Fully integrate “In Air” data (when then pen is not in contact with the tablet) into data processing
Update network components
Enhance graphs to make them more indicative
Record more measures within each “tablet” sample ( Z, Azimuth, Altitude and Twist)
Add ability to rotate handwriting (90° / 180°)
Add ability to split / merge files
Add option to exclude the first pause of “Tracing dynamics” data extraction.
Calculate the Number of Inversion in Velocity (NIV)
Enhance tablet samples timestamps correction (required with some hardware)
Add a module to work on production bursts
Better analyse the quality of data provided by equipements
Add unicode support (UTF8)
Add to Windows high-DPI display scale
And… release Eye and Pen as Open Source !
Roadmap to version 3.0
Freely give away Eye and Pen
Get an element into an item of the list
Capture a portion of the display
Ability to add one’s own text into a session log file
Add an optional pictures preloading
Add a “template” to help labelling sequences
Enhance handwriting samples timing liability
Simultaneous voice recording while writing
Discontinue support for Eyeputer (Alphabio)
Add diagram showing sequences of writing and pausing, eye movements and fixations
Increase the range of available codes, AOI and sequences that can be used
Simplify files management
Record “in the air” pen movements
Add data input/output throught the parallel port
Roadmap to version 2.0
TabletPC support through Microsoft TabletPC API (Windows XP TabletPC Edition, Windows Vista).
Windows Vista/Seven compatibility
Support of Wacom new Intuos4 tablet series (2048 pressure levels)
ability to perform an acquistion without a tablet
manage acquisition on mutiple computers through network
applying “special effect” to the trace displayed on screen while recording: blur.
applying “special effect” to screen readability : masking.
ability to record tablet as an eyetracker (pen movement is recorded, even if “up”)
audio recording of subject’s retrospective comments.
Script: syntax checking
script: randomizable list of stimuli management
script: variables usage
support of more images formats
replay animation and animation speed management
having Eye and Pen drived by an external software, to allow repetitive tasks (extractions etc…).
Word clipping tool to generate sequences, AOIs and codings