ZTE launched Project CSX, a competition which empowered customers to submit their vision of the next great mobile device, in 2016. The goal was to produce the world’s first “crowdsourced” phone — a phone with functionality, hardware, and an aesthetic voted on by ZTE’s online community. And it’s fair to say ZTE succeeded.
After an extended brainstorming session involving 400 submissions from more than 176 countries, the company settled on a winner: the Hawkeye, an eye-tracking phone that adheres to the surface of tables, walls, and chairs.
“With Project CSX, we experimented by turning the typical R&D process on its head and did something completely different within the industry,” said Jeff Yee, ZTE USA’s vice president of technology planning and partnerships. “We believe that the Hawkeye name reflects the spirit and vision of ZTE as we continue to put the consumer throughout this entire process and will continue to do so in every phone we deliver.”
The winner of Project CSX beat out several other contending ideas. One was a stock Android flagship phone from ZTE that would do away with the company’s third-party overlay. Another was a virtual reality diving mask that would let users swim anywhere while showing images that make them feel like they are in the ocean.
But the winner, code-named Hawkeye, is in some ways even more radical. It uses eye-tracking sensors to translate eye movements to software tasks, a self-adhesive backing that allows it to be mounted to a wall or flat surface, and split-screen technology that allows two users to view different content at the same time.
The Hawkeye’s eye-tracking system, or ETS, comprises two laser-focusing cameras — one on the front and one on the bottom — that captures users’ pupil movement. This allows users to scroll up and down a PDF, book, or dense text file without tilting their heads, for instance, or rewind or fast-forward a video by glancing to the left or right.
The Hawkeye’s dual directional viewing screen, meanwhile — technology pioneered by Japanese display technology firm Sharp — lets two different types of content be displayed simultaneously. A user standing to the left of the Hawkeye can see a different image than one standing to the left, for instance. ZTE says it’s the first time the technology has been implemented in a smartphone.
The self-adhesive backing — the result of two years of polymer research, ZTE says — consists of medical-grade silicon that provides an adequate adhesion strength that is “neither too strong to peel off […] nor too sticky to the hand.”
The Hawkeye’s hardware is respectable as well. On the front is a 5.5-inch edge-to-edge 2k (2,560 x 1,440 pixels) LCD screen, eye-tracking cameras and sensors, and an ambient light sensor. Preliminary plans call for 4 or 6GB of RAM, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 823 or newer, 64-128GB of internal storage, and a battery between 3500 and 4000mAh.
On the Hawkeye’s back is a 16-megapixel camera with a f/1.8 aperture, 1.6µm pixel size, 26mm lens, high-dynamic range, optical image stabilization, laser autofocus, and a dual-LED flash. On the front is an 8-megapixel camera with f/1.8 aperture, 23mm, optical image stabilization, autofocus, and 1.34 µm pixel size.
The Hawkeye launches on Kickstarter for pre-order at the discounted price of $200, and is expected to ship globally in the third quarter of 2017. The three proposed colors include battleship grey, big dip o’ruby, ball blue & apple green, and amaranth pink.
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“Project CSX has been a groundbreaking process and the Hawkeye device sets the stage for us in 2017,” ZTE USA Chairman Lixin Cheng said. “As we move forward with this smartphone, we’ll look to continue to integrate consumers every step of the way.”