This App Lets You Relive Your Memories in VR, 'Black Mirror'-Style

“Technology has always enabled us to record moments and get back to them,” Wist's developer said.
This App Lets You Relive Your Memories in VR, 'Black Mirror'-Style
Image via Wist Labs

Memory is simultaneously one of human beings' most joyful and painful abilities. A fresh memory of your child’s first laugh can be rendered in the mind’s eye with sharp lines, color, and sound, but recall the same memory on their 18th birthday and it’s a fuzzy blur. Technology has come a long way towards helping us hold onto these elusive memories, but rewatching home videos isn’t the same as experiencing the real moment.


Andrew R McHugh hopes he can close in on this gap with a new app called Wist, which promises to let users capture videos on their phones and transform them into 3D, immersive memories viewable either via their phones with AR (augmented reality) or with a virtual reality headset. McHugh, CEO and co-founder of the app, explained to Motherboard that Wist is targeting the feeling that its namesake, wistful, evokes: longing and regret. 

“My grandmother died when I was in middle school,” McHugh said. “I have some memories from that time, but I don't remember her terribly well. We have some photos and videos, but it’s not the same as being there… and she never got to meet my kid.” 

Had Wist existed when McHugh was in middle school, here’s how things could’ve been different: The Wist app works by first capturing a video through the app on a user's iOS smartphone and then transforming the 2D images into an immersive, 3D experience. McHugh says that happens through collecting 3D data from the initial video, including depth, color, and audio information. Once processed, the users can either step into a Quest VR headset or look through their phones screen to see the VR or AR memory overlapping with their real environment. 

While explaining this process in a video call, McHugh showed me some of his own memories through Wist. After he dons a VR headset, a live feed of the immersive environment is screenshared to my computer. Overlapping with the real environment, a 3D video of his child as a baby pops up against a wall in his living room and the sound of infant laughter fills the space. In his real living room, McHugh can approach the memory for a closer look. The memory feathers out at the edges as it encroaches on real space, but inside the core of the experience the image is clear. 


A video showing a similar demo was widely shared on Twitter after being posted by Wist. While many found it simply cool or futuristic, others said it was dystopian and reminded them of the darkly satirical Black Mirror. In the episode “The Entire History of You”, a tech implant with similar technology allows users to capture and rewatch their memories whenever they want, to a dark end.  

As McHugh’s demonstration showed, Wist memories can be experienced individually or shared immersively with friends and family. This feature played an important role during the pregnancy of his child, he said.

“We were getting one of the regular ultrasounds and I captured the moment,” he said. “I was able to bring my mother into the experience [from] halfway across the country.”

McHugh originally had the idea for Wist (then, Vivid) when working as a AR/VR team lead and senior designer at Samsung. He left his position of four years in 2021 and began to work on the project with co-founder and CTO, Michael Oder, in 2022. The duo launched Wist’s first beta at the end of January 2023. 

In its current form, Wist has a number of limitations. For example, it’s only compatible with the most recent iOS phones and two Quest VR headsets–although this is likely to expand in the future, McHugh said. There are also elements of a memory—for example, smell—that technology has not yet found a way to capture.

Together with feedback from its beta users, McHugh and Oder are working to improve the experience and capabilities of Wist, including working on data security and upconverting videos not captured in the app. There’s no timeline yet for a wider release, but users can request to join the private beta on the app’s website.

With this work, McHugh is excited for more people to experience what he sees as another evolution in a long line of technological advancements working to solve the problem of human memory.

“Technology has always enabled us to record moments and get back to them,” McHugh said. “Even the technology of drawing, painting and writing. Those technologies were the first way we captured moments–it's something that's always been there.”