Where No Phone Has Gone Before...

Over the past decade or so, Netflix has gone from a relatively niche DVD rental service to a streaming platform that is virtually ubiquitous wherever one goes on Earth. “On Earth” is the key part of that. See, you don’t become ubiquitous without a certain measure of ambition, and for the truly ambitious… well, James Bond’s family motto really says it all: “The world is not enough.”

Netflix occasionally hosts hack day events, in which employees are encouraged to take a break from their routine and basically come up with cool stuff to do with the company’s technology. One team decided to take this to the logical extreme and – in collaboration with the Stanford Student Space Initiative – take streaming to the stars.

To that end, the team devised a device that would allow the Netflix app to play video on an iPhone, which they then launched into space. For its maiden voyage, the intrepid iPhone was mounted to an acrylic window which was in turn attached to a styrofoam cooler. After adding some small heaters (to prevent the phone’s battery from freezing), the capsule (for want of a better word) was attached to a weather balloon and launched, eventually reaching an altitude of 32,000 meters (about 115,000 feet).

But of course, all of that is leaving off the most important part of the device: a GoPro! In addition to the heating elements and the phone itself, a camera was sent up to record the flight (because why wouldn’t there be?).

Appropriately enough, the Netflix content that was chosen for the flight? ‘Star Trek: Discovery’, of course! While the show isn’t available on Netflix in the US, the streaming giant is among its overseas distributors, and thus it was available to the team as “downloaded Netflix content.”

Other hacks included a virtual 3D Bay City and a panning vertical player that lets commuters pan around full screen portrait videos by tilting the device.