Thursday, June 13, 2024
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I moved a car with my eyes, and it blew me away

Honor Magic 6 Pro eye-tracking screen with a car in the background.
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

The Honor Magic 6 Pro comes equipped with a feature called “Magic Capsule,” which is essentially a way to gaze through notifications without touching your phone. It’s a bit similar to Apple’s Dynamic Island but with a catch.

Here, you expand the notifications without even touching your phone. You do so by controlling the phone with your eyes. To showcase the feature at MWC 2024, Honor let me start, stop, and move a car with my eyes. And it was the craziest demo I’ve ever seen at MWC.

Controlling your phone with your eyes

Someone holding the Honor Magic 6 Pro, showing the screen turned on.
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

Magic Capsule is basically Honor’s take on Apple’s Dynamic Island. For instance, if you book an Uber and a notification pops up, you can look at your phone, which will expand the notification to give you more information. I can think of various occasions where it would come in handy, like when I’m having food and a message arrives or I need to look at a message from a friend while my hands aren’t free to touch the phone.

Honor showcased the feature by setting up a demo where I could move a car from its initial point to 10 meters away just by looking at the phone. The Magic Capsule requires you to calibrate your eyes, which is a fairly easy process. It shows five points on the screen for you to look at one by one. And you’re good to go within 30 seconds. I calibrated my eyes without removing my glasses and switched to the car app.

Did I just move a car by looking at my phone? I think I did!
Demo of Honor Magic Capsule on the Magic 6 Pro.

NOTE – This isn’t the future of driving. It’s just for cool demo purposes.

More on this is a story soon#Honor #HONORMagic6Pro #MWC

— Prakhar Khanna (@Parkyprakhar) February 26, 2024

It had four boxes on the screen: start engine, move forward, move backward, and stop engine. I looked at the start engine for three seconds, which prompted the car to start. Then, I moved my eye to the Move Forward button and was amazed at how it registered my gaze within five seconds to move the car. It was set up to move to 10 meters only for the demo. All I could think of was, “What in the Harry Potter world is this?” I moved it back, stopped the engine, and did the whole thing again – just to be amazingly surprised again.

It’s incredibly cool, but I must make it very clear that this is not a use case for Magic Capsule, and neither is it the future of driving. It’s an out-of-the-box idea to showcase a feature that is meant to make the phone interface more interactive.

Is this the future?

Honor Magic 6 Pro eye-tracking screen.
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

While the Honor Magic 6 Pro made its global debut at MWC this year, the Magic Capsule feature isn’t available at launch. The device was launched in China earlier, so the eye-tracking feature is trained for East Asian eyes. Honor is still training it for the global audience. It will arrive on the Magic 6 Pro via an update in the future.

Honor’s Magic Capsule works with contact lenses as well as with spectacles. It doesn’t depend on the eye color. I asked Honor if there was an indicator so I’d know when the phone was looking at my face. The company says that it doesn’t make use of the camera. Instead, it only uses the ToF sensor to recognize your eyes and where they are looking on the screen. It worked well for me, and I was surprised when it recognized exactly where I was looking on the display.

When asked, the company told me that I need not worry about a stranger in public looking at my phone and getting access to my notifications without me realizing it. The Magic Capsule is activated at the 1.8-second mark (this can’t be changed), which Honor tells me is the most reasonable timing for eye gazing based on their internal learnings. It is more than just a random gaze, and only when you’re consciously looking at the display. It takes into account eye shape and eye movements.

Honor Magic 6 Pro back
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

But since it isn’t scanning your eye data, it’s not limited to just your eyes. For instance, if you hand over your phone to a friend to look at a photo, and a notification arrives, they will likely be able to access it by looking at it for 1.8 seconds. It’s just me being skeptical, but that’s very likely to happen because it isn’t using your biometric data. Instead, it’s bouncing off rays from someone’s eyes — and it doesn’t matter who that is.

I like the fact that the Magic Capsule uses an on-device process to work. You don’t need an internet connection to control your phone with your eyes. Honor says it works with numerous apps in China but hasn’t commented yet on what apps will be supported when it rolls out globally. It will be coming to the Magic 6 Pro first and won’t be available for Honor’s foldable phone, the Magic V2, because it lacks a ToF sensor. No words on compatibility with the Magic 5 Pro yet.

Moving a car back and forth with your phone sounds pretty basic, but it’s extraordinary when you do so with your eyes. I’m saying it again: It’s not the intended use case, and in no way is it going live for the public, but the feature is impressively cool and one I can’t wait to try when it rolls out in the coming months. We don’t have an exact launch date for Magic Capsule yet, but it’ll be interesting to see how it blends into my day-to-day use cases. Currently, the only phone set to receive it globally is the 1,299 euros Honor Magic 6 Pro.

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