Look out: An exploratory study assessing how gaze (eye angle and head angle) and gait speed are influenced by surface complexity.

Thomas, N. D. A., Gardiner, J. D., Crompton, R. H., & Lawson, R. (2020a).

Background: Most research investigating the connection between walking and visual behaviour has assessed only eye movements (not head orientation) in respect to locomotion over smooth surfaces in a laboratory. This is unlikely to reflect gaze changes found over the complex surfaces experienced in the real world, especially given that eye and head movements have rarely been assessed simultaneously. Research question: How does gaze (eye and head) angle and gait speed change when walking over surfaces of different complexity? Methods: In this exploratory study, we used a mobile eye tracker to monitor eye movements and inertial motion sensors (IMUs) to measure head angle whilst subjects (n=11) walked over surfaces with different complexities both indoors and outdoors. Gait speed was recorded from ankle IMUs. Results: Overall, mean gaze angle was lowest over the most complex surface and this surface also elicited the slowest mean gait speed. The head contributed increasingly to the lowering of gaze with increased surface complexity. Less complex surfaces showed no significant difference between gaze and gait behaviour. Significance: This study supports previous research showing that increased surface complexity is an important factor in determining gaze and gait behaviour. Moreover, it provides the novel finding that head movements provide important contributions to gaze location. Our future research aims are to further assess the role of the head in determining gaze location during locomotion across a greater range of complex surfaces to determine the key surface characteristics that influence gaze during gait.

PeerJ, 8, e8838.