Visually guided tracking on a handheld device: Can it be used to measure visuomotor skill in shift workers?

Patricia Hölzle, Christian Tatarau, Joachim Hermsdörfer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: We introduced a new visually controlled tracking task that can be assessed on a handheld device in shift workers to evaluate time-of-day dependent modulations in visuomotor performance. Background: Tracking tasks have been used to predict performance fluctuations depending on time of day mainly under laboratory conditions. One challenge to an extended use at the actual working site is the complex and fixed test setup consisting of a test unit, a monitor, and a manipulation object, such as a joystick. Method: Participants followed an unpredictably moving target on the screen of a handheld device with an attachable stylus. A total of 11 shift workers (age range: 20-59, mean: 33.64, standard deviation: 10.56) were tested in the morning, the evening, and the night shift in 2-hr intervals with the tracking task and indicated their fatigue levels on visual analogue scales. We evaluated tracking precision by calculating the mean spatial deviation from the target for each session. Results: Tracking precision was significantly influenced by the interaction between shift and session, suggesting a clear time-of-day effect of visuomotor performance under real-life conditions. Tracking performance declined during early-morning hours whereas fatigue ratings increased. Conclusion: These findings suggest that our setup is suitable to detect time-of-day dependent performance changes in visually guided tracking. Application: Our task could be used to evaluate fluctuations in visuomotor coordination, a skill that is decisive in various production steps at the actual working place to assess productivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1296-1306
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number7
StatePublished - 19 Nov 2014


  • field study
  • hand function
  • shift work
  • sleep
  • time of day
  • tracking task
  • visuomotor coordination


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