Fortunately (or unfortunately), there is no screen licking involved.
On Wednesday (Nov. 7), Netflix published a blog post about its most recent “hack day,” which took place Oct. 11-12. Netflix runs these biannual hack days for employees to come together and experiment with different technologies. As it did for previous hack days, Netflix emphasized that this fall’s creations are unlikely to ever make it into the brand’s products. The aim is to support a “culture of innovation,” Netflix said.
This year, one of the more interesting things that Netflix employees came up with during the hack days is what the company calls “Eye Nav.” It’s a tool that lets people navigate the Netflix app on iOS using just their eyes and tongue.
Eye Nav was built using Apple’s ARKit, software that includes features like device-motion tracking to help developers build augmented reality experiences for Apple products. “The same technology that enables Face ID is great for accurately tracking eye position and facial expression,” Netflix writes on its blog’s blog.
The company’s employees reportedly built a tool that tracks eye movement and interprets it to move a pointer around a device screen. If the user’s eyes stop moving—and the pointer, therefore, settles in one place—it triggers the equivalent of a click. To switch to another screen within the app, users just have to stick out their tongue. The engineers behind the tool say they hope it, or technology like it, could improve accessibility. (Eye-tracking technology has already been used, for example, to help people with physical disabilities play video games with just their eyes.)
Netflix only chooses a handful of creations to feature in its blog posts. The other two that the company publicly shared from the fall 2018 hack even are “Jump to Shark” and “LunchBot.”
“Jump to Shark” lets people fast forward to the bloodies bits of Sharknado, a 2013 movie about—you guessed it—shark-infested tornadoes. (The film received terrible reviews but somehow led to a successful TV franchise.) Netflix admits that some of its hack day creations for “just having some fun,” though the company maintains that “even the silliest idea can spur something more.”
“LunchBot” is a program that, every morning via Slack, invites a random group of co-workers to eat lunch together and checks all their calendars to make sure they’re free.
Previous Netflix hack day creations include a remote control that you can operate with your mind and an Atari-style Stranger Things game. While hack day projects have not been integrated into Netflix’s products or released to the public so far, Netflix has shared instructions on how to recreate some of its other hack day tools before. For instance, Netflix created a “Netflix and chill” button in 2015 and released step-by-step instructions so people could re-create their own.