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Implicit relevance feedback from electroencephalography and eye tracking in image search

Golenia, Jan-Eike; Wenzel, Markus A.; Bogojeski, Mihail; Blankertz, Benjamin

FG Neurotechnologie

Objective. Methods from brain–computer interfacing (BCI) open a direct access to the mental processes of computer users, which offers particular benefits in comparison to standard methods for inferring user-related information. The signals can be recorded unobtrusively in the background, which circumvents the time-consuming and distracting need for the users to give explicit feedback to questions concerning the individual interest. The obtained implicit information makes it possible to create dynamic user interest profiles in real-time, that can be taken into account by novel types of adaptive, personalised software. In the present study, the potential of implicit relevance feedback from electroencephalography (EEG) and eye tracking was explored with a demonstrator application that simulated an image search engine. Approach. The participants of the study queried for ambiguous search terms, having in mind one of the two possible interpretations of the respective term. Subsequently, they viewed different images arranged in a grid that were related to the query. The ambiguity of the underspecified search term was resolved with implicit information present in the recorded signals. For this purpose, feature vectors were extracted from the signals and used by multivariate classifiers that estimated the intended interpretation of the ambiguous query. Main result. The intended interpretation was inferred correctly from a combination of EEG and eye tracking signals in 86% of the cases on average. Information provided by the two measurement modalities turned out to be complementary. Significance. It was demonstrated that BCI methods can extract implicit user-related information in a setting of human-computer interaction. Novelties of the study are the implicit online feedback from EEG and eye tracking, the approximation to a realistic use case in a simulation, and the presentation of a large set of photographies that had to be interpreted with respect to the content.