Our eyes often betray our intentions. Think of poker players hiding their “tells” behind sunglasses or goalkeepers monitoring the gaze of the striker to predict where they’ll shoot.

In sports, board games, and card games, players can see each other, which creates an additional layer of social gameplay based on gaze, body language and other nonverbal signals.

Digital games completely lack these signals. Even when we play against others, there are few means of conveying implicit information without words.

However, the recent increase in the availability of commercial eye trackers may change this. Eye trackers use an infra-red camera and infra-red LEDs to estimate where the user is looking on the screen. Nowadays, it is possible to buy accurate and robust eye trackers for as little as A$125.

Eye tracking for gaming

Eye trackers are also sold built into laptops and VR headsets, opening up many opportunities for incorporating eye tracking into video games. In a recent review article, we offered a catalogue of the wide range of game mechanics made possible by eye tracking.

This paved the way for us to investigate how social signals emitted by our eyes can be incorporated into games against other players and artificial intelligence.

To explore this, we used the digital version of the board game Ticket to Ride. In the game, players must build tracks between specific cities on the board. However, because opponents might block your way, you must do your best to keep your intentions hidden.

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