Comcast lets people with physical disabilities control a TV with just a glance

For people with physical disabilities that prevent even the smallest of limb movements, Comcast now offers a way to control a TV using existing assistive technology, including eye-gaze systems. Although that sounds like a big leap in technology, it’s simple in its execution. Xfinity X1 eye control is the name of a web-based remote that lets those with a variety of assistive technologies from eye-gaze trackers, sip-and-puff switches, and other options, create a software bridge between these systems and Comcast’s Xfinity X1 cable boxes.

Once that bridge has been established by using their credentials to pair the web-based remote with their set-top box, users can:

  • Change the channel, launch the guide, search for content, set a recording and more, without assistance.

  • Turn on the X1 Sports App which brings real-time sports scores and statistics into the screen right alongside the in-game action.

  • Access X1’s Accessibility menu which controls closed captioning, video description and voice guidance.

  • Use their gaze to type out voice commands like “watch NBC” or “action movies.”

“Changing the channel on a TV is something most of us take for granted but until now, it was a near-impossible task for millions of viewers,” Tom Wlodkowski, vice president of accessibility at Comcast, said in a press release. “When you make a product more inclusive you create a better experience for everyone and we’re hoping our new X1 feature makes a real difference in the lives of our customers.”

The concept behind the X1 eye control, though a powerful one, is hardly a novel idea. Companies like Tecla have been taking the same approach to give those with disabilities a way to interact with smartphones and tablets through their existing assistive controls — arguably a much more difficult thing to do than control a TV.

On the flip side of the accessibility equation is voice-control. Rather than build technologies that require the use of assistive controls, for those who are still able to speak and be heard, voice-control could be an even more powerful solution once it becomes more sophisticated and less buggy. But it’s worth noting that inexpensive devices like Amazon’s Fire TV Cube offer an impressive amount of voice control commands.

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