This study had two purposes. The first was to develop a method to measure horizontal gaze tracking errors (based on synchronized eye and head tracking recordings) as subjects viewed many pitched balls. The second was to assess horizontal eye, head, and gaze tracking strategies of a group of Division 1 college baseball players.
Subjects viewed, but did not swing a bat at, tennis balls projected by a pneumatic pitching machine. Subjects were to call out numbers and the color of these numbers (black or red) on the balls. The trajectory of each pitch was very predictable. Eye and head movements were monitored with a video eye tracker and an inertial sensor, respectively, and these movements were synchronized with ball position using an analog recording device. Data were analyzed for 15 subjects.
Eye rotation, head rotation, gaze errors (GEs), and unsigned gaze errors (UGEs) were calculated at various elapsed times. On average, subjects tracked the pitched ball with the head throughout the pitch trajectory, while the eye was moved very little until late in the pitch trajectory. On average, gaze position matched the target position throughout the pitch trajectory. There was some variability in the mean amplitudes of head and eye movement between subjects. However, the eye and head were related by a common rule (partial rotational vestibulo-ocular reflex suppression) for all subjects. Although the mean amplitudes of the GE and UGE varied between subjects, these means were not consistent with anticipatory saccades for any subject.
On average, Division 1 college players tracked the pitched ball primarily with the head and maintained gaze close to the ball throughout much of the pitch trajectory. There was variability between subjects regarding the head and eye movement amplitudes and GEs, but, overall, all subjects maintained gaze close to the ball throughout the pitch trajectory despite the fact that these individuals were not batting.