Diff display helps you to optimize your attention

Diff display is a research project which helps the user to focus on the screen (or part of) on which he is actually paying attention. This program, using a eye-tracking software, responds to user’s inattention reducing clutters and highlighting the information his eyes are processing.


Diff Display is inspired by the spreading of multiscreen displays at workstations and the need of attention on the modern multitasking environments. Since it’s harder and harder to wholly concentrate on data and graphs while writing and thinking, a group of researchers at the University of St.Andrews thought about creating a software which could facilitate and speed everyone’s work.

These researchers implemented four different subtle visualisations techniques which are clearly explained in the downloadable research paper: Freezeframe, PixMap, WindowMap and Aura.

The first one, Freezeframe hides visual changes on the unused part of the display until the user’s visual focus shifts towards that part.This is the simpliest technique. When the user switches the focus on one screen or another, the unattended display freezes and switches to black and white. Then, when the users attends the previous screen, the b&w frozen frame dissolves.

The second and third techniques use a temporal heatmap visualisation showing the user the changes occurred in the screen while the attention was focused on the other screen. In the PixMap technique, a difference in pixel values of the last captured frames is computed and the changes are visible on the attended display. In WindowMap the changes are not visible at the pixel level but at the application-window one.

Finally the Aura technique shows the last changes on the unattended display. Firstly Aura darkens the first display, then it captures the last frames of the unattended display which are enhanced and the changes are visualised as a thin rectangle around each visible window one the unattended display.

This type of program could be used for specialized workers that needs to maintain focus and awareness of many things at once (the researchers suggest air-traffic controllers and financial analysts). But that’s not all. It can be useful also for people who have a couple of displays at work in order to  not strain the sight and not to get the user’s eyes tired after an entire day of data processing.

I’m actively waiting for this program to be integrated in all the operative systems. At the moment, we can all download and set our own Diff Display clicking here. Enjoy the increased attention.


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