SCIENTISTS in Scotland have created computer screens that know when you're watching in an attempt to ensure users never miss new updates.

The project by St Andrews academics uses a software called eye tracking, which scans images captured by a camera in order to identify eye position.

The so-called "diff displays" turn light-grey when they detect you are no longer looking and use visual triggers to draw your attention back to parts of the screen with new information.

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Dr Per Ola Kristensson, a lecturer in human computer interaction who developed the prototype with PhD student Jakub Dostal and Professor Aaron Quigley, explained how the technology works.

He said: "You get thousands of images of people's eyes. Then you train an algorithm, a computer program, to detect these eyes in camera images.

"Whenever it sees one of the thousands of eyes it has been trained on, it will trigger a message to the system saying 'I know that the user is looking at this particular display'."

The system is designed for people who use multiple screens and early tests suggest it could decrease distraction and improve quality of life for office workers. The team will be presenting their research at a conference in California and have begun discussions about getting the product on the market.

Previously the excessive cost of eye-tracking equipment had held the technology back, but with increasingly powerful computers Mr Kristensson believes 2013 could be the year it goes mainstream.

He said: "Eye tracking is actually becoming very hot in the computer science industry nowadays.

"There's a new Samsung phone with built-in eye tracking. So if you watch a video on your phone, you get distracted, it will automatically pause the video."

Some forward-thinking advertisers are already using the technology when testing the impact of their new commercials. Mr Kristensson predicts eye-tracking software will become a standard on Windows and Apple computers in the next two to five years.