You can’t lose the remote when the remote is your brain.
If Amazon’s Alexa Voice Remote is too much of a workout for you, imagine choosing what TV you watch using only the power of your mind.
That’s just what four people on Netflix’s product team began working on during the company’s latest biannual 24-hour hack day, when developers basically stop working and goof around with new technology ideas.
This idea, called MindFlix, relies on Muse, a $249 “brain sensing headband” that “measures brain signals much like a heart rate monitor senses your heartbeat.” The manufacturer markets Muse as a meditation assistant. It makes you look like a progressive senator from a futuristic utopia.
You put MindFlix on and navigate the Netflix app by moving your head. Now, that’s pretty standard motion-sensor stuff, but don’t worry, it gets weird fast: You command the app to play by thinking “play.”
The Netflix product team hasn’t explained how MindFlix would work, and in fact it may just be a joke. Or it may become vaporware, simply published as a set of instructions for DIY makers to play around with. Netflix did this with previous hack-day projects like a remote button called “Netflix and chill.” (The only thing it doesn’t do is invite my girlfriend over.) But if Netflix is taking this even a tiny bit seriously, you can bet the tech will one day be available.
But are we sure we want it?
I certainly wouldn’t mind a better interface than the draconian Netflix app on my TV. Painstakingly typing a show or movie name using the tiny buttons on my remote has gotten kind of old.
But Amazon’s tiny Fire TV controller is much easier to use, and its Alexa voice-command feature saves quite a few clicks, though it doesn’t always interpret my spoken search terms properly. It does get lost a lot — a perennial annoyance MindFlix’s promo video promises to solve. (If you plan to wear the hippie headband 24/7, that is…)
The pros of a remote? You can sit on it and break it without having to pay $249 for another one.
Granted, it’s a lot easier to hog the remote when it’s strapped to your head. But…what happens if I and my girlfriend have one?
And just how lazy should I aspire to be? One product bro in the video exclaims, “Whoa, this thing’s great! I don’t think I ever have to move again!” But is that a good thing? Could all that nodding and head-shaking give me some kind of permanent tic?
Perhaps my biggest issue: I just don’t know if I want anything built by a media company on my head, reading signals from my brain. That’s access to too much personal data. Remember how Netflix put together one of its first hit shows, 2013’s “House of Cards” remake? (Yes, I said “remake”: It’s based on a British show that, for my money, is superior.)
After mining data about what tens of millions of Netflix users watched, and for how long, the streaming company decided a remake of the popular Brit series would be popular. It was, and I like it, but it did feel creepy knowing that all the times I clicked on movies like “Nymphomaniac,” Netflix was watching and taking notes. Do I want them taking notes on my brain? Where does it end?