In the past, Netflix’s biannual Hack Day has produced some silly inventions, like making a remote control with a single button that lets you use Morse code to search through its catalog. For its most recent Hack Day, Netflix engineers and designers devised a few more ideas. Some could actually be pretty useful at improving accessibility for users with disabilities, and others let you skip to the good stuff in movies with sharks in them.
In what should clearly become a permanent feature, Netflix engineers Juliano Moraes and Shivaun Robinson created a “Jump to Shark” button that can only be used in Sharknado. The “Jump to Shark” button looks a lot like the “Skip Intro” button, but instead of letting you skip title sequences, it lets you skip entire parts of the movie that don’t feature sharks. “We don’t want to see anything but sharks,” says a voice in the video during a boring beach scene, and I have to agree. As the hand taps the “Jump to Shark” button, “We move forward to the next shark. and then we watch only what matters.”
Another project is Eye Nav, created by Ben Hands, John Fox, and Steve Henderson. Using Apple’s ARKit, the same technology that enables Face ID, it allows users to navigate Netflix’s iOS app using their eyes and facial expressions.
“We used eye tracking to move the pointer around the screen, and measured the time spent on the same area to trigger the equivalent of a tap. We then used a facial gesture (tongue sticking out) to dismiss a screen,” they explained. The group hopes that the tech can become a part of mainstream Accessibility APIs in the future.
If you want to read about more projects — like LunchBot, a Slack bot that invites random groups of co-workers to lunch after checking their calendars to see if they’re all free — Netflix has written about its many Hack Days over on its blog.