Netflix testing feature allowing platform to be controlled by eye movements

/ 10:12 AM November 09, 2018

Will you soon be able to choose your Netflix program with a look? Image: AFP

Why use your hands to pick what to watch when you can just use your eyes? Netflix’s new feature in-the-works lets you control the iOS app with nothing but facial expressions.

At Netflix’s Fall 2018 Hack Day on November 7, the company unveiled and tested a mobile Netflix app feature that uses Apple’s Face ID to allow users to control the application using only eye and facial movements. Without ever reverting back to finger-touch control, Eye Nav lets you navigate the application, browse through, and select titles with just your eyes — but be prepared because to pause or close a screen, you’ll have to stick out your tongue.


The feature was built using Apple’s ARKit — the same one used to bring the world animojis — to increase app accessibility. This new form of API could make Netflix easier to use for those with motor impairments: basically, the “hack” places a cursor where your eye is looking and if your view lingers on a particular point of the screen, the tech will understand this brief pause as a tap. In theory and maybe soon in reality, you won’t have to lift a finger to watch your favorite films, but you can’t avoid sticking your tongue out.

Features like this and the rest tested at Hack Day don’t always make it to the final product, but the event gives developers an opportunity to share and try out new ideas that may actually hit the digital shelves. This season’s event also brought a feature called “Jump to Shark” to the movie “Sharknado.’ Instead of scrolling through the progress bar, with just the tap of one option, you’ll be sent right to the most exciting — and graphic — parts of the movie.


These features may never see the light of day again, or they could be the beginnings of new interface functioning that Netflix will bring to its platform in the near future. With accessibility being a key focus of the company, it’s likely that Eye Nav will make a debut in one form or another, and maybe you’ll never have to watch the sharkless parts of Sharknado ever again. AB


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TOPICS: eye tracking, Face ID, face recognition, gesture control, iOS, Netflix
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