ZTE Hawkeye, formerly Project CSX, jumps on Kickstarter

From crowdsourcing to crowdfunding. That basically sums up the conception and infancy of the ZTE Hawkeye, the formal and final name of the smartphone that was born out of ZTE's unexpected Project CSX, short for "Crowd Sourced X". Now that smartphone, which is basically a self-adhesive device with built-in eye tracking, will be put to the test to see if there really is a market for such a smartphone. Or if supporters of the CSX initiative are truly ready to see this through and raise $500,000 to start the Hawkeye's production.

It is, of course, a fitting next chapter to a story that started right here at CES back in 2016. ZTE dared to spend a portion of its fortunes on a business venture that could very well turn out to be a dud. It asked the masses what they would like to see added in ZTE's portfolio. And after a period of voting, the crowd's wisdom pointed to a smartphone that could be used even without touching it. Thus, the ZTE Hawkeye was born. At least in concept.

Spec-wise, the Hawkeye might not be all that, though we can't really say as ZTE seems to still be keeping all the details under wraps. All it is willing to share is that it will have a 5.5-inch Full HD screen, runs Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box, and has dual rear cameras. Reading in between the lines, and based on the discounted price, it might be running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 series or an equivalent MediaTek P10 chip.

Unexciting as that may sound, the Hawkeye's real selling point is its eye-tracking feature. It won't completely navigate and operate the smartphone for you, which would have been great for users with physical handicaps. Instead, using the high-resolution front camera, iris movement will be detected and translated by software into commands for scrolling through pages. Voice commands will assist in, for example, navigating between pages.

That very specific use case may seem odd if not for the other special but optional feature of the smartphone. Like Spider-man, it can stick to walls. And also like Spider-man, it only does that when it's in costume. The smartphone itself isn't self-adhesive, but an optional case is. Combined, those two features make its possible to read web pages, email, and such when your hands are preoccupied and you have a flat vertical surface in front of you.

While Hawkeye, whose name was also put through a vote, may have garnered the majority of votes in Project CSX, it remains to be seen whether that will actually translate to a show of money. Hence the Kickstarter campaign. The ZTE Hawkeye is being made available for pre-order with a discounted price tag of $199. The full retail price, if and when it does go into regular retail channels, is unknown. The smartphone is expected to ship sometime in the third quarter. That is, if the $500,000 funding goal is met.