Suppose you want to watch Netflix, but you think tapping a screen on the Netflix app is too much work?
Is this really a problem? Well, if so, does Netflix ever have a surprise for you! The company revealed a truly amazing new technology that they're calling EyeNav. It lets users control its iPhone app without touching it, or even using voice commands.
Instead, you just stare. Or, for some functions, stick out your tongue.
Before we get too snarky about this technology, let's make two things clear:
- First, this isn't going to roll out tomorrow. It's more of a cool thing that Netflix engineers put together and then decided to unveil as part of an event.
- And second, at the very end of its presentation, Netflix said EyeNav could have promise as an accessibility feature. Obviously, that's a worthy application if Netflix goes in that direction.
Setting that aside, however, there are two likely reactions to this technological advance, which Netflix unveiled at its twice-a-year Hack Day event last week. Perhaps you'll feel both of these reactions at the same time:
- Whoa, that's amazing! The app literally follows and records your eye movements and facial expressions and responds to subtle movements!
- Whoa, that's incredibly scary! Also, the app literally follows and records your eye movements and facial expressions and responds to subtle movements!
Before we explore further, here's the 60-second video Netflix put together to show off the technology. Then we'll dig through a few other important points.
It's pretty cool to watch. And it's all made possible by the fact that we've reached the point in our real-life dystopian world where technology isn't just tracking our movements and recording our voices.
It's literally following where we look, and how our facial expressions betray our emotions.
Kudos to the developers, credited as Ben Hands, John Fox, Steve Henderson, for coming up with this. Apparently, they're just accessing the face recognition mechanism within the iOS on iPhone and hacking it (hence the name of the day) to allow an additional functionality.
I suppose that since it's an adaptation of someone else's technology, this means we're likely to see this kind of eye-control on lot of other applications, too.
It could be useful in a lot of different scenarios. Imagine if you could build this into a car windshield and allow people to interact with digital maps without ever taking their eyes off the road.
But back to Netflix. Will this catch on? Will they run out of facial expressions to track?
Will we get used to watching people on the train, fast-forwarding quickly as they binge watch, by squinting and wrinkling their noses in rapid succession?
Will you be able to vote a show up or down based on whether you roll your eyes, look on with open-eyed amazement, or give it the old stink eye?
Or will Netflix just watch your reaction, file it away, and say nothing?
Actually, they're probably doing that already. Just relax and binge, and pretend this isn't at all creepy.