We hear a lot about the technological innovations coming in the future, whether it’s self-driving cars or hyperloop, but sometimes the best developments in technology are a little closer to home.
At Netflix’s biannual hackathon event, which sees the company’s employees come together to create and discover new prototypes, one of the projects could see people scrolling through the app using only their eyes named Eye Nav.
The hackers, Ben Hands, John Fox and Steve Henderson, using Apple’s ARKit, which allows developers to make augmented reality applications. Using the same technology that enables facial unlock on the iPhone, the team were able to use eye tracking to move a big yellow pointer around the screen and measured the time spent on the same area to trigger the equivalent of a finger tap.
They said they also used a facial gesture, in the form of a tongue sticking out, to dismiss a screen.
Whilst this sounds like a fun, albeit lazy, way to use the Netflix app, the development of this kind of idea points to something else: accessibility. This would make Netflix’s products more accessible to people with mobility issues.
There’s no guarantee that Netflix will employ this feature but the team are hopeful it could have a wider impact on the way developers create apps. “We’re hopeful this kind of technology will become a part of mainstream Accessibility APIs in the future,” they said.
Netflix has been running hackathons like this from the past couple of years. Previous projects have focused on being able to watch Netflix vertically when you’re on a commute and a dual PIN access your partner can’t Netflix cheat on you and watch shows without you around.
Events like this are a great way to take people out of their regular day job and have a chance to experiment and push the boundaries of technology. Microsoft also holds an annual hackathon to encourage its employees to build accessible products.
One project from this year's hackathon led to the creation of an accessible Xbox controller, which even comes in adaptive packaging that is easier to open.
Microsoft’s chief accessibility officer, Jenny Lay-Flurrie, told the Standard: “The opportunity to ditch every meeting, hibernate in an enclosed space, and wallow in problems and solutions is really fun.
"But for me, the bigger impact is the cultural impact. People walk in with often very little knowledge of accessibility but walk away with an understanding of how to design, how to think about it, and the language. They can then take this back to their day job.”