ZTE's insane, crowdsourced eye-tracking phone is called Hawkeye and is coming in September for $199
ZTE is bringing its crowdsourced, crowdfunded Project CSX phone to market this September, and it’s called Hawkeye.
ZTE has announced that its long-awaited (by some) crowdsourced phone will go up for pre-order starting January 4 and will be delivered nine months later, in September, barring any unforeseen delays.
The device, born under ZTE’s ambitious Project CSX, which stands for Crowd Source X, gleaned suggestions from people around the world, integration the two most viable into the finished product: eye-tracking navigation, and adhesive properties .
The eye tracking comes from the combination of a high-resolution camera and specialized software.
The former comes from an iris scanning camera on the front that, working with the Android software, scrolls up, down, left and right using decisive movements of the eyes. While this is not a new concept, ZTE says that it has improved the experience considerably: “The software interprets eye motion and replaces these gesture commands in any application that supports these standard Android commands.” It appears, then, that the integration leverages Android’s existing accessibility APIs, making compatibility fairly wide. For instances where eye-tracking is limiting — page-turning in a book, for instance — voice commands will replace hand touches.
The other unique feature, which for obvious reasons couldn’t be built into the Hawkeye itself, is a self-adhesive property. ZTE says that people clamoured for a way to stick their phones to various objects in lieu of actually holding them, so they’ve developed a case that adds that very feature. It’s unclear to which surfaces the case will stick, or how long the adhesive will last, but we’ll find out in the next few months.
In most other respects, Hawkeye is a typical Android smartphone: it has a 5.5-inch Full HD display, two SIM slots, dual rear cameras with variable focal lengths, a high-quality amplifier and speaker, a rear fingerprint sensor, a “large” battery with quick charging, and expandable storage, running on Android 7.x Nougat (whatever’s the latest at the time).
Obviously these are ambitious goals for a phone that will, at least for Kickstarter backers, retail for $199 USD. Yes, you heard that right: the company is following through on its “crowdsource” theme by selling the device on Kickstarter. Technically, the Hawkeye project requires $500,000 in support to go to market, but that’s likely a formality at this point. ZTE has the resources and the impetus to sell this on its ecommerce store even if it doesn’t reach that admittedly modest target goal.
The question is, aside from the two gimmicky features, will the Hawkeye project turn into a decent Android phone? While we don’t know the eventual retail cost of the phone — likely $250 to $300 — at $199 the device seems to have enough of a draw to interest the average fan of unlocked hardware, but without carrier support sales will be lackluster at best.
ZTE has a lot going for it these days.
ZTE has a lot going for it these days. The Axon 7, its unlocked flagship, was well-received in the U.S. and seems to have sold relatively well given its market segment. Not only that, the Chinese company seems to understand what North American audiences want in a phone, and while the Axon 7’s software was far from perfect, it certainly lived up to its $399 price.
So we’ll have to see how the Hawkeye is received. The name alone places it squarely in front of a particular demographic, evoking images of patriotism and, of course, the eponymous Marvel character, but it’s possible that we’ll learn more of the story between now and September when it ships.
It is available for pre-order now and ships anywhere in the world for $199.
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