When watching TV, voice control can be a real convenience, whether it’s via Alexa, Google Assistant, or even with Comcast’s Xfinity remote. But for people who can’t use their hands or voice, though, navigating a television’s interface is much more difficult, if not impossible.
Comcast is rolling out a new service with fully disabled people in mind. Its new X1 eye control feature is essentially a web page that mimics the X1 remote, but can be controlled using any number of existing technologies, such as Tobii eye trackers or sip-and-puff switches.
Because the web-based remote has all the same buttons, you can do everything you could do with the X1’s physical remote, including play/pause, rewind, accessing the DVR, and controlling any apps that have been paired with the cable box, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. You can also use the web-based remote to search for content by title, genre, and more.
We had a chance to check out the eye control interface ahead of its launch today (June 17); After configuring the Tobii eye tracking software to our eyes, an on-screen cursor would follow our eyes as we looked around the screen. When we paused on a particular button, a square would magnify the area, confirming that was the button we wanted to press. Then, the command would be sent to the TV.
Obviously, it takes a bit longer than pressing a button or speaking a command — especially if you want to type in the name of a show, for instance — but otherwise, it seemed to work well in the demo.
X1’s eye control is a free feature rolling out to Comcast customers today. While it will only be useful to a small subset of the company’s customers, it’s still a welcome addition. Hopefully other streaming device and smart TV makers will follow suit.