In today’s world, technology is advancing so fast that what seems like science fiction is becoming reality. Enter MindFlix, a device developed by Netflix that acts as a mental remote.
MindFlix was created during a Netflix “hack day,” in which employees are given just twenty-four horus to develop a unique product to use in conjunction with Netflix. Four members of Netflix’s product team, who “apparently aspired to an unparalleled state of vegetation on their sofas,” worked on this device. Although MindFlix is not a real product that will be released to the market, it is still an interesting display of modern technology.
MindFlix relies on aspects of neuroscience, as its producers used a brain-reading headband from the company Muse. Originally, this band was intended for meditation. Users would wear it to, not only enhance their meditation, but also to assess their brain activity while meditating. However, Netflix engineers decided to change things up with the band.
Even though it may seem so, the MindFlix headband does not actually read the user’s mind. (Netflix would probably encounter privacy issues). It operates by reading electroencephalography waves, more commonly known as EEG waves. The concept of EEG waves has been around for over a century.
These waves, which are recorded when electrodes make contact with the scalp, reveal electrical activity in the brain. More specifically, they monitor changes in voltage caused by the movement of ions in brain cells. In the realm of science, EEG waves are used to detect brain abnormalities, like epilepsy. In the case of MindFlix, EEG was used for a more comical purpose.
Several team members that worked on this product released a short video online that shows Mindflix in use. In the video, one person is sitting on a couch, motionless, with his eyes glued to the screen. His friend approaches him and asks him how long he has been sitting and watching the same show, to which the first individual replies, “a couple hours,” because the remote was “too far away” (although the camera shows the remote perfectly within arm’s reach of the man). The friend pulls out the Mindflix, and unbelievably, it actually does work as a mental remote.
The person on the couch wears the band, and scrolls between different shows by tilting his head to the left or right. When he finds the show he wants to watch, he thinks “Play,” and surely enough, the show begins. He is blown away by the fact that he can stay nearly motionless for hours and watch TV, only having to tilt his head or turn his neck to adjust the volume or change the show.
MindFlix – an awe-inspiring invention or a waste of time, resources, and creativity? Reactions have been mixed, including among NJIT students.
“[It seems] pretty cool,” said Abanoub, a second year NJIT student. “If I [were] an investor, I would put money into this.” Abanoub not only sees a potential for MindFlix in controlling television, but also other appliances around the house.
Conversely, some students don’t think too highly of MindFlix.
Amina, a first year student, thinks that the brain-reading technology could be implemented in more useful technologies. “A remote control was invented so people don’t have to get up to change the channel,” said Amina, “Do we really need something so that people don’t have to click a few buttons?”
For now, MindFlix is just an idea – not even a prototype. Could it become a product available to the public? Only time will tell. Until then, users will just have to reach for that remote – as far away as it may be.