The latest feature for Comcast’s X1 remote software makes the clicker more accessible to people who can’t click it the same as everyone else. People with physical disabilities will now be able to change the channel and do all the usual TV stuff using only their eyes.
TVs and cable boxes routinely have horrendous interfaces, making the most tech-savvy among us recoil in horror. And if it’s hard for an able-bodied person to do, it may well be impossible for someone who suffers from a condition like ALS, or has missing limbs or other motor impairments.
Voice control helps, as do other changes to the traditional 500-button remote we all struggled with for decades, but gaze control is now beginning to be widely accessible as well, and may prove an even better option.
Comcast’s latest accessibility move — this is one area where the company seems to be genuinely motivated to help its customers — is to bring gaze control to its Xfinity X1 web remote. You load it up on a compatible computer or tablet, sync it with your cable box once, and then the web interface acts as your primary controller.
Users will be able to do pretty much all the everyday TV stuff using gaze: change channels, search and browse the guide, set and retrieve recordings, launch a live sport-tracking app and call up and change accessibility options like closed captioning.
A short video showing how one man finds the tech useful is worth a watch:
It’s amazing to think that among all the things Jimmy Curran has worked to make himself capable of in spite of his condition, changing the channel was not one of them. Perhaps there was some convoluted way of going about it, but it’s still an oversight on the part of TV interfaces that has limited accessibility for years.
Voice controls may also be more easily usable by people with conditions that affect their speech; Google is applying machine learning to the task with its Project Euphonia.
Users will need a gaze control setup of their own (this isn’t uncommon for folks with physical disabilities), after which they can direct the browser on it to xfin.tv/access, which will start the pairing process.