When a prototype of Google’s Project Glass surfaced a few months back, the concept of smart, reality-enhancing glasses, long debated by enthusiasts and skeptics, became real. Amid new reports of Apple and Microsoft developing prototypes of their own, a recently released student film offers a not-so-unfathomable glimpse into the possible future of this technology.
Created by Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design grad students Daniel Lazo and Eran May-raz, Sight is an eight-minute short that upgrades augmented reality glasses to iridescent contact lenses that enhance the wearer’s world with interactive overlays of video games, cooking lessons, TV shows, and anything else that’s accessible on smartphones and computers--just minus the cumbersome task of having to type or talk.
"We were inspired by many present-day apps and several sci-fi movies," says Lazo. "But most of the ideas came from us trying to visualize a world where this tech is standard, and what kind of interactions can happen in it."
And the interactions that take place are far from settling.
The film opens with Patrick, an engineer for Sight Systems in his unadorned apartment--the Sight system provides all a layer of information and entertainment over every surface of his home. He’s shown the technology for everyday tasks--including getting ready for his date with Daphne, a fellow Sight user. Dinner turns into a live feed of social media updates from Daphne and notifications of progress from Patrick as he attempts to woo her with the aid of a dating app called "Wingman." Charming, if not a wee bit smarmy (viewers are encouraged to overlook the acting here), Patrick skates his way through the date and even manages to dismiss a troubling accusation Daphne raises about his company implanting thoughts and manipulating users through Sight. Back at his place for a nightcap, the evening quickly unravels when Daphne discovers she’s been seduced through an app, and understandably storms for the exit. She stops abruptly in her tracks, however, for an unnerving ending that leaves the night blank for the viewer to conjure up any number of disturbing scenarios.
While the film offers a number of more pleasant projections on how this sort of technology could be used (morning workouts! cucumber cutting becomes a game!) it also raises yet another hotly debated topic of discussion: the pervasiveness of and dependence on technology in our lives. At dinner, Daphne laments at how lost she was during a run when her Sight crashed--a subtle hint, perhaps, at how large of a crutch services like Google Maps have become. And, of course, there’s that ending that might seem a little Big Brother-ish but can’t be totally disregarded as sci-fi scare tactics given how much of ourselves we serve up to technology under the guise of an easier and more efficient life.
"We tried to create interfaces that were believable," says Lazo. "I’m very much into fancy, complex interfaces but not to the point where it hinders the viewer’s understanding of the shot. So we tried to carefully tread that fine line of making it look real and pretty and at the same time communicate with the viewer effectively."