There has been an experimental FaceDetector API within the Chrome web browser since version 56 that can automatically detect when someone is looking at a webcam. Now, the developer who created FacePause has found a way to use the API to automatically pause YouTube videos when you look away from your computer.

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Before you start to worry, there are multiple settings that you must manually turn on before Chrome starts using your webcam to watch you. More on that later.

When everything has been turned on and installed, FacePause places a small window below YouTube videos that initially shows the face detection (as seen below). This automatically disappears, but you still see a little box that lets you turn the feature on or off.

As this is an experiment, there is obviously work that still needs to be done. For the most part, FacePause works well when looking forward and directly at your screen, but it can stutter a little from time to time. It correctly pauses your video when you turn your head completely away, but if you do something like cover part of your face with your hand, it thinks you have looked elsewhere.

In the future, I think this feature would be better if it just monitors your eyes. That way it could tell when you aren’t looking specifically at the screen or even the YouTube window. You currently have to dramatically turn away for it to register that you aren’t looking.

So if you’re interested in trying out FacePause for yourself, follow along with the instructions below. If you have any questions, make sure to leave them in the comment section below or hit me up on Twitter.

How to install and use the FacePause Chrome extension

  1. Install the FacePause Chrome extension
  2. Enable Chrome flag
  3. Turn on the face detection

1. Install the FacePause Chrome extension

The first step is to download the FacePause extension from the Chrome web store. Once it’s done, you should see a smiley-face icon next to your other extensions.

2. Enable Chrome flag

Next, you’re going to need to enable the Chrome flag that enables the extension’s functionality. To do that, copy and paste chrome://flags/#enable-experimental-web-platform-features into Chrome’s uni-bar. When you find it, click on the corresponding drop-down menu and select Enabled. Before this will go into effect, you’ll have to click on the Relaunch button which will restart the browser.

3. Turn on face detection

The last step is actually turning on face detection — which is something that took me several minutes to figure out. Head to YouTube and start playing any video. Near the bottom of the window, you should see a small box that looks identical to the image below. Toggle the switch on, and Chrome will request access to your computer’s webcam. From there, you should see something similar to the photo above.

At any time, you can turn FacePause off by toggling the box off. Additionally, the face monitor window will automatically close after several seconds. You can pop it up again by clicking on the camera icon. When the green box is showing, Chrome is able to detect your face. When there isn’t a box, it thinks you’re looking away.


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