Netflix holds occasional hack days, where the company’s engineers spend some time building odd (and sometimes pretty useful looking) projects around the streaming video service.

Earlier this year we saw one team figure out how to get Netflix to run on a classic NES game console. The company held another Hack Day recently, and this time Netflix is showcasing a group of projects that could make it easier to stream videos in areas without broadband, make it easier to find something to watch, or make it easier to find a scene in a show.

netflix smart channels

The Stream Possible hack was an effort to optimize Netflix for streaming over 3G connections. The bitrate is limited, there’s a custom Netflix boot sequence, and Netflix is designed to run on a cheap HDMI stick. The idea is that this could let people stream videos in regions where it might be hard to find wired internet connections or 4G wireless speeds.

Smart Channels, meanwhile, provides collections of content grouped by theme. Want to watch classic Sci Fi? It could fire off an episode of Star Trek followed by an episode of Firefly, making the streaming experience feel a bit more like traditional TV… but without the ads. And of course if you want to binge watch a show that comes up, you can always exit the channel and just start watching that show exclusively.

One of the more surprising hacks is OK Netflix, which lets you speak a line of dialog to your phone to see the scene where that dialog occurs. Want to skip to a certain point in a movie or TV show but can’t remember exactly when that scene occurs? Just talk to your phone and Netflix can search the closed captioning for the video and start the scene a sentence or two early.

There’s no telling if any of these projects will ever be released to the public, but I can see situations where each would be useful.

Other projects include a video game based on the Netflix series Narcos and a 1950s TV that’s been retrofitted with the tech necessary to stream Netflix.



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3 replies on “Netflix engineers create Smart Channels, 3G-optimized streaming for Hack Day projects”

  1. The last one would get a lot of use from me, particularly when trying to find which episode a Bob’s Burgers or Family Guy quote comes from.

    1. Seems like it searches the current episode for a line and then jumps to that scene. It sounds like you want to be able to do a much broader search across multiple episodes and even different TV shows, which this doesn’t seem like it does. There really should be an app for that!

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