Netflix Hack Day 2014
March 1, 2014

Mobile Sharing, Sleep Tracking Technology Developed At Netflix Hack Day

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A sleep tracker that will pause programming when it detects you have fallen asleep and an app that allows users to share videos by bumping mobile devices together are among the experimental innovations cooked up during the 24-hour Netflix Hack Day event for developers that took place last Thursday and Friday.

According to Engadget’s Jon Fingas, the company’s Netflix Beam experiment takes advantage of Apple’s Bluetooth-based iBeacon technology to share movies or TV shows with other iPads and iPhones by touching the iOS devices together. Using this feature would eliminate the need to log into and out of separate accounts or share Wi-Fi passwords, the developers explained.

The Sleep Tracker feature, on the other hand, would work in tandem with a Fitbit wearable fitness wristband to detect when a Netflix customer falls asleep, Matthew Sparkes of The Telegraph explained. It then pauses the program, notifies the user and creates a “sleep bookmark” which allows viewing to resume from that specific point.

The Sleep Tracker was developed by Netflix engineers Sam Horner, Rachel Nordman, Arlene Aficial, Sam Park and Bogdan Ciuca, according to PC Mag writer Stephanie Mlot. It uses data registered to Fitbit’s API that can be used by any connected device. When the user returns to the program halted by the feature, he or she can opt to resume watching from either a regular or sleep bookmark.

In a blog entry Thursday, officials from the company said that they take pride in “creating a culture of innovation and experimentation.” They added that while it is “not unusual” for “a lot of really good ideas” to result from Hack Day, this year’s event produced “some really spectacular work” on such topics as improving developer productivity, troubleshooting assistance and new product features.

Another team of developers came up with the concept of custom playlists, which would replace the now-discontinued queue option. Mlot said that Netflix users would be able to add titles or individual episodes, saving them by theme or occasion. They could then access content on the list without having to ever use the main Browse page again.

The Hack Day event also led to the creation of Radial, which Casey Johnston of Ars Technica explains “takes advantage of joystick motions to make text input on a console controller easier, placing letters on a wheel to scroll through” instead of using an onscreen keyboard – “a user-hostile experience that is all too familiar to console users.”

“Most of these hacks and videos were conceived of and produced in about 24 hours,” Netflix said, noting that the teams began their hacking on Thursday morning and worked through the night before presenting their work to their colleagues the following morning. The company added that “while we think these hacks are very cool and fun, they may never become part of the Netflix product, internal infrastructure, or be used beyond Hack Day.”