Honor says its new phone lets you open apps with your eyes

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By Aprilia Reen

Image of a woman gazing at phone screen with Uber app in a pill-shaped notch.

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We were expecting — and we got — a lot of talk about generative AI this morning when Honor CEO George Zhao took the stage at Qualcomm’s 2023 Snapdragon Summit. But the announcement of its Honor 6 flagship came with a surprising detail: it includes a feature that lets you interact with the device using your eyes. With some notable concerns about privacy implications, it looks kinda cool.

The keynote briefly featured a rendering of what this technology will look like, showing a woman looking at her phone with a snippet of the Uber app running at the top of the screen — something like a Live Activity. By changing the direction of her gaze, she opens the app in full.

Honor calls the technology Magic Capsule, and describes it as “eye-tracking based multimodal interaction,” which is more descriptive but less fanciful than Magic Capsule.

GIF showing eye tracking cursor hovering over and opening Uber app.

GIF showing eye tracking cursor hovering over and opening Uber app.

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It’s one feature on the upcoming Magic 6 that will also feature a virtual assistant that utilizes Qualcomm’s on-device AI. You can ask it to do things like gather all the videos on your device that meet a certain criteria, whittle them down by other characteristics, and have it generate a new video highlighting your clips. We’re going to see a lot more of that kind of thing in the near future, too, because this year’s Snapdragon Summit is All About AI. We were 15 minutes into the main keynote before 5G was even uttered once, for the record.

Whether — and how — Magic Capsule works is a question mark. The demo video is hardly a real-life representation,and it seems like a feature with the potential to introduce more frustration than it’s worth. The “multi-modal” descriptor seems to indicate that gaze is just one input in the system, so it could be coupled with other gestures to work reliably —perhaps like how we’ve seen PSVR 2 games use eye-tracking to highlight things before you click to confirm. Also:do you want your phone to know where you’re looking? It’s no small issue when you’re talking about a state-backed company like Honor.

All of that aside, it’s nice to see device OEMs pushing for advances in how we use our phones that don’t begin and end with an AI chatbot. Reliable eye-tracking technology would have some real accessibility benefits, and it’s not entirely out of left field.It could be handy for moments when your hands are full — Apple certainly seems to think there’s a need for new ways of controlling your devices.

Honor hasn’t said specifically when the Magic 6 will ship, but Qualcomm says that phones with its new flagship chipset will start arriving in the coming weeks.

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