They look like something out of Black Mirror, only there's no mechanism or sound or movement behind the scenes. But try on these glasses and every time you look at a screen your vision gets blocked.
In other words, they're glasses that screen screens, according to Chino Kim, the 28-year-old behind Screeners, a project that began as a personal quest to rid his life of screens.
"I'm tired of this mainstream tech culture that's obsessed with things like virality and monetization and locking down our eyeballs for as long as possible," he told me at the recent NYU Interactive Telecommunications Program Spring Show. "I feel like the guy in A Clockwork Orange with my eyes clamped open. The Screeners address this head-on and they fit into my general interest in poking fun at the things I find alienating about everyday life by turning them on their heads."
Here's how it works: Everything happens on code and smart film, an opaque plastic that becomes clear when an electrical charge is applied to it. This way, whenever you look at a screen, be it computer, smartphone, TV, or whatever, the glasses become opaque, effectively blinding you until you look away.
"The images from the webcam on your head get processed by a convolutional neural network, which identifies what you're looking at, Chino said." This output then gets passed to Wekinator, which is trained on various screens in order to optimize the program's response. If the webcam sees a screen, it will trigger the Arduino to cut power to the smart film on the glasses, making them opaque."
"[I'm] battling Computer Vision Syndrome with computer vision."
The idea came to Chino, an artist and neuroscientist with a background in IT, while taking a course called Machine Learning for Artists. He realized he could create these glasses using basic machine learning and computer programming.
"I got really into thinking about the machine being able to recognize itself and using its newfound intelligence to save us from itself, like Gizmo from the movie Gremlins," he told me. "[I'm] battling Computer Vision Syndrome with computer vision."
They were just one creation on display at ITP's Spring Show, like a personal desktop robot assistant that express itself through GIFs, a silicone rubber throat that can articulate sounds, an interactive hologram experience with a deceased dog, and a security Chrome extension that blocks your text and pictures, among others. Most of the ITP projects on display relied heavily on screens—and so too did Screeners, insofar as the glasses force one to think about our dependence of screens.
I, for one, looked away.