Twice a year, Netflix’s designers and engineers take a day off from regular work to put together the most innovative and unnecessary inventions they can imagine. It’s called a Hack Day, and in the past, they’ve made a version of House of Cards play on the original NES, turned Netflix into an old-school video rental store with the HTC Vive, and reimagined Narcos as a video game called Plata o Plomo.
The most recent Hack Day — hosted from August 17th to August 18th at Netflix’s headquarters in Los Gatos, California — turned out another crop of nostalgia-steeped ideas. A project called Teleflix wired a Raspberry Pi to a vintage AT&T telegraph key, translating an input of Morse code into USB keyboard scancodes. The aim there was to make a remote control with a single button that could be used to search a Netflix catalog. It’s not really a time-saver, but it’s fun that this guy got to wear a top hat. (You can read a full explanation of how the hack was put together on Guy Cirino and Alex Wolfe’s post-mortem blog post.)
Another project, Spookyflix, mimics the experience of Disney World’s Haunted Mansion ride: every face on the Netflix homepage is animated so that its eyes will follow you around while you scroll. Okay! This is totally useless, but could add a little much-needed levity and whimsy to your scary movie night.
Netflix’s big Hack Day recap post also asks the questions “Would you sign up for Netflix on a vending machine?” and “Which part of the TV experience do you think is the most expendable — perhaps the image part?” Netflix Audio Book Mode is exactly what it sounds like. It is a version of Netflix where all of the TV shows are actually just audio books — basically radio plays with a little bit of added narration. You might think this is not really an innovation, but rather simple gimmicky theft of a format that’s over a century old. But you might also respect Netflix’s blog editors for daring to suggest to the public that their incredibly expensive TV shows could be just as good with nothing to look at. Hmm? Up to you.
The most useful proposed feature is a little less glamorous. Engineers Kevin Lew and Chris Carey made a modified Continue Watching that would show a user’s progress through a show in a bubble-filled timeline indicating how quickly they were watching it and how long it would take them to binge the rest.
If your TV viewing habits are constantly out of control, this could be a good way to keep yourself in check? Or it could just make you feel miserable, but that’s the catch-22 of most technological innovation, is it not?
In today’s blog post, Netflix engineer Jordanna Kwok and product developer Glen Davis wrote, “While we’re excited about the creativity and thought put into these hacks, they may never become part of the Netflix product, internal infrastructure, or used beyond Hack Day. We are posting them here to share the spirit of the event and our culture of innovation.” So, don’t worry, nobody is going to hold you accountable for your binge-viewing. And the eyeballs on your home screen will stay where they are. Probably.