Ever been in the middle of binge watching your favorite TV show on Netflix and struggled to reach the remote control? Or maybe you simply have both your hands full. As part of Netflix's annual Hack Day, where product development teams are set loose to innovate new, out-of-the-box ideas, a prototype has been developed that solves such problems by allowing a user to control the Netflix interface with the power of their mind.
The four Netflix engineers behind the idea repurposed a Muse headband, one of a growing number of consumer-grade electroencephalography (EEG) headsets. The Muse headband was designed to help users train their brain to become more focused and less prone to distraction, but the Netflix engineers have repurposed the device to allow scrolling through the platform's playlists and activating items to play.
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Hack days are a regular occurrence across Silicon Valley, offering workers the ability to embark on freeform collaborative brainstorms to innovate new ways of working. Netflix has been running hack days for a few years now and generally the resulting innovations never make it past the prototype stage, but interestingly enough Netflix isn't the first organization to investigate the idea of replacing your television's remote with mind control.
In 2015, the BBC showed off a prototype mind controlled TV, again using an EEG headset. Stressed as an experimental proof-of-concept, we haven't heard anything more since that initial announcement, and in the video accompanying the BBC project one of the test subjects notably commented that the device was "a lot slower" than simply using a remote control. However, the BBC had admirable goals in developing the technology, hoping to create a control system that could help those with disabilities navigate their TV user interface.
Netflix has amusingly dubbed its innovation "Mindflix", and while the actual technology may never go further than this simple novelty video, we are fascinated at the possibilities of mind-controlled channel surfing. Maybe the next step is for a headset that senses your mood and automatically selects the show ideally suited to your given situation?
Take a look at the jokey Netflix demonstration of the device in the video below.