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.
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Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.