While it will still be primarily a touchscreen interface, eye-tracking mode will allow page-scrolling without all the heavy finger-lifting normally required. It works by calculating the user's gaze based on reflections from infrared light beamed to the pupils.
"The infrared sensor radiates near-infrared illumination that is used to create the reflection patterns on the cornea and pupil of the eye of the subject. Image sensors are used to capture images of the eyes and the reflection patterns," explains ZTE in a detailed write-up about the yet-to-be named phone.
"Advanced image-processing algorithms and a physiological 3D model of the eye are then used to estimate the position of the eye in space and the point of gaze with high accuracy."
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ZTE announced the competition this January and in August offered fans three designs to choose from, after whittling down candidates from 400 entries.
It will also feature a self-adhesive polymer on the back cover so that the device can be stuck to a vertical fixture, such as a wall or chair, again taking hands out of the equation for video viewing or reading.
The phone will also include a split-screen privacy feature that displays one view to the user, and another view, such as a wallpaper, to anyone adjacent to them. It won't stop shoulder-surfers but might put you at ease when messaging family and friends on a train or at an airport.
Core specs are yet to be settled and are still open to suggestions. What's proposed so far suggests a high-end phone, including an LCD display, metal finish, Snapdragon 823 SoC, up to 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, 16-megapixel main camera, an eight-megapixel rear shooter and a 4,000mAh battery.
ZTE hasn't said exactly when the device will be available in 2017. It has produced four mockups for grey, blue-green, purple and pink variants, all with the same eye-themed pattern on the back cover.