When Netflix’s designers and engineers get together for their biannual Hack Day, they usually manage to turn out at least one invention the streaming service’s subscribers wouldn’t mind taking for a public spin. They’ve created test interfaces for development versions of the Oculus Rift; they’ve ported the service to the NES; they’ve turned ’50s TVs into the kind of smart screens that would’ve transcended their designers’ wildest dreams. The results from Netflix’s most recent Hack Day were published this morning, and they skew a little more practical than the examples above while still retaining some of that signature weirdness.
This Hack Day’s strangest product is probably the Netflix Zone, an alternate VR viewing experience made for the HTC Vive that ditches the existing living room simulation for a skeuomorphic video store. You can pick up VHS tapes made to resemble Netflix’s original programming and throw them around a red-carpeted room; when you figure out what you want, you hold it up and screens emerge out of the walls and ceiling. It’s probably not an ideal selection or viewing experience, but it’ll make you think about the last time you stopped at a Blockbuster — and at the very least, it’s good for a laugh.
DON’T GET TOO ATTACHED TO THESE CONCEPTS
It’s easier to imagine some of this year’s other Hack Day products entering regular use. Tetris doesn’t have anything to do with the namesake game, but it imagines a desktop Netflix experience that lets you add, remove, and tweak the positioning of the rows that make up the Netflix navigator. Family catch-up viewing makes it easy to see how much all the profiles tied to a given account have watched, and QuietCast lets users watching through Cast TV or a Chromecast enjoy audio through their phone or tablet while watching on a larger screen.
They’re appealing ideas, but I wouldn’t get too attached to them: like the results of any other Hack Day, there’s no guarantee they’ll ever be made available to the public. “As always, while we think these hacks are very cool and fun, they may never become part of the Netflix product, internal infrastructure, or otherwise be used beyond Hack Day,” wrote Netflix’s engineers in a blog post. “We are posting them here publicly to simply share the spirit of the event and our culture of innovation.” If you want to share in said spirit, you can check out all of the products through the videos embedded below.