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Netflix engineers sent a phone playing Star Trek: Discovery into space

Contributed by
Mar 14, 2018

Over the past several years, as its streaming service access and long list of original content has continued to grow, Netflix has become one of the most dominant entertainment forces on the planet. It's a nearly ubiquitous piece of technology in many places, and its reach has expanded to more than 190 countries worldwide. 

For some Netflix engineers, though, taking over the whole planet just wasn't enough.

Recently, the company hosted another "Hack Day" event, which encourages Netflix employees to take a day off from regular work and come up with fun ways to improve or just play around with Netflix technology in interesting ways. For one group of employees, that meant it was time to send Netflix into space. Yes, you read that right.

In collaboration with the Stanford Student Space Initiative, a group of employees rigged up a device that would allow the Netflix app to play content on an iPhone even as that phone slipped away from Earth. To do that, they attached the phone to an acrylic window, and then attached small heaters to keep the phone warm as it gained altitude so the batteries wouldn't freeze.

A GoPro camera was then added to document the event, and the whole rig was placed inside a Styrofoam cooler and attached to a weather balloon. The show chosen for this voyage: Star Trek: Discovery, which isn't available to stream on Netflix in the U.S. at the moment but was available to this team as "downloaded Netflix content."

As you can see in the video below, the phone and the device carrying it climbed to 115,000 feet. Because of the window the phone is mounted on, you can see the blackness of space and the curvature of the Earth in the background even as you're watching (silently, because of the vacuum of space) the latest Star Trek voyage on the phone.

There aren't any practical applications for this just yet, but now that someone's done it, expect others to follow. Who knows? Ten years from now Elon Musk could be driving laps around the moon in a Tesla while watching the 15th season of Fuller House on an iPad.

Check out video of the hack above.

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