Victoria Müller

Victoria Müller

Bachelor's Thesis

Assessing Gaze Behavior of Athletes in Virtual Reality

Markus Wirth (M.Sc.), Prof. Dr. Jochen Klucken (UKE), Prof. Dr. Björn Eskofier

12/2019 – 05/2020

Superior anticipation and decision-making are characteristics of successful team athletes [1]. They are capable of more accurate predictions on future events, in particular based on superior recognition of postural orientation of opponents and faster pattern and structure recognition in
decisive situations [2]. To analyze and hence quantify such perceptual processes, eye-tracking has been used as a method to examine the gaze behavior of athletes. Current research shows that state-of-the-art mobile eye-tracking glasses are not fully reliable because of different disruptive factors like bad light conditions or missing tracking data caused by fast movements [3]. Therefore, different technology approaches should be explored, to compensate these issues and provide a reliable alternative to current mobile eye-tracking devices.

Recent advances in virtual reality (VR) hardware technology have brought this immersive medium to a broad acceptance with a major interest also coming from the area of healthcare and sports [5]. VR provides immersive computer-simulated environments to the user by enabling depth
perception based on stereoscopic vision. In sports, this can be applied to assess and train athletes under real-world conditions and reduce injury risks at the same time. Especially for the assessment and training of mental strength and cognitive skills of athletes, researchers could show that VR is a promising tool [5].

Applying eye-tracking for VR sport simulations-based assessment of athletes yields great potential due to several reasons. First, computer-generated environments are fully controllable and hence undesired effects and distractors can be avoided; Second, the reproducibility of the simulation is extremely high, meaning that every athlete experiences the same conditions which facilitates a valid comparison of results; Third, HMD integrated eye-tracking systems are less disruptive to negative influencing factors like changing light conditions and thus are expected to ensure data reliability; Fourth, a more sophisticated mapping of the eye-tracking data can be achieved, since every object within the virtual environment is known and can be related to the gaze behavior of an athlete.

In existing studies, the gaze behaviors of athletes were analyzed using video simulation and real world in-situ conditions [3,7]. Results show that the gaze behavior varies significantly between video based and real word conditions. To our best of knowledge there is no research that
investigates the influence of VR sport simulations on gaze behavior of athletes. In this thesis the gaze behavior of soccer players in a VR sports environment will be evaluated and analyzed using an HMD-integrated eye-tracking system. Therefore, a realistic VR soccer simulation will be designed and implemented. Further at least eight athletes will be evaluated regarding their gaze behavior while experiencing the VE. Finally, the results of the study will be compared to
results of previous studies.


  1. Mann, Derek T.Y.; Williams, A. Mark; Ward, Paul; Janelle, Christopher M. (2007): Perceptual Cognitive Expertise in Sport: A Meta-Analysis. In: Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology 29 (4), S. 457–478.
  2. Roca, A., Ford, P. R., McRobert, A. P., & Williams, A. M. (2011). Identifying the processes underpinning anticipation and decision-making in a dynamic time-constrained task. Cognitive processing, 12(3), 301-310.
  3. Bideau, Benoit; Kulpa, Richard; Vignais, Nicolas; Brault, Sébastien; Multon, Franck; Craig, Cathy (2010): Using virtual reality to analyze sports performance. In: IEEE computer graphics and applications 30 (2), S. 14–21.
  4. Dicks, Matt; Button, Chris; Davids, Keith (2010): Examination of gaze behaviors under in situ and video simulation task constraints reveals differences in information pickup for perception and action. In: Attention, perception & psychophysics 72 (3), S. 706–720.
  5. Neumann, David L.; Moffitt, Robyn L.; Thomas, Patrick R.; Loveday, Kylie; Watling, David P.; Lombard, Chantal L. et al. (2018): A systematic review of the application of interactive virtual reality to sport. In: Virtual Reality 22 (3), S. 183–198.
  6. Mann, Derek T.Y.; Williams, A. Mark; Ward, Paul; Janelle, Christopher M. (2007): Perceptual Cognitive Expertise in Sport: A Meta-Analysis. In: Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology 29 (4), S. 457–478.
  7. Kredel, R., Vater, C., Klostermann, A., & Hossner, E. J. (2017). Eye-tracking technology and the dynamics of natural gaze behavior in sports: A systematic review of 40 years of research. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 1845.