Long before the HoloLens or the Magic Leap One, a California-based team of independent filmmakers envisioned what the future of augmented reality might look like.
Now, after millions of people viewed the initial short film called "Sight," the directors, operating under the name Robot Genius, are looking to extend their futuristic vision.
This week, the team launched a Kickstarter with the goal of creating a longer version of the haunting augmented reality tale.
Set in the not-too-distant future, "Sight" entranced audiences with its imagery of the possible advancement of immersive interface technology. In the film, instead of cell phones, people use AR contact lenses, which create layers of virtual data over the real world.
The original short, directed by Daniel Lazo and Eran May-Raz, followed a character named Patrick, who was shown using AR apps for almost every aspect of his life.
For example, for breakfast, he opens a cooking app with instructions scrawled across his countertop. Then, on a date, Patrick uses an app that tells him the right thing to say while sitting across from a woman who is also wearing AR contacts. In other situations, Patrick views vivid AR advertisements and follows the directions of AR-assisted traffic intersections.
Interestingly, these are all now AR interactions that are either working today, or in development, which shows how far we've come since 2012. In general, the only major differences between these sci-fi takes on AR and today's real AR come down to the use of contact lenses in the film instead of the smartphones and headsets that we still need today to view such AR experiences.
The short film was first uploaded to the Internet in 2012, and it became a viral hit in the augmented reality industry and beyond.
That virality was demonstrated by the nearly three million viewers who watched the team's Vimeo video, with millions more views being racked up by YouTubers who also posted the video. Following its release, hundreds of social media commenters weighed in with praise, with many asking to see more.
Years later, after watching the real AR industry mature, Lazo and May-Raz decided to respond to those early fan requests and embark upon a fund-raising effort to fuel a follow-up film.
And that's where Kickstarter comes in. If they reach their $70,000 goal by August 11, the filmmakers will create a 35-minute long film, which will be the first in a series of videos taking place within the "Sight" universe.
"We're fascinated by the moral dilemma that new technology brings into our lives," said Lazo, in a behind-the-scenes video promoting the funding campaign. "Similar in tone to Black Mirror, our story will explore thought-provoking themes in AR, such as gamification and our sense of free will."
The longer film will explore Patrick's life even more, allowing the audience to question how much control he really has over his life as his AR contact lenses influence his every move. According to the directors, viewers will get to see just how far Patrick is willing to go when it comes to relying on AR, and then watch him struggle to regain control of his life.
Back in 2012, the directors were students when they uploaded the short film, pulling it together by any means possible. Ultimately, the project required a number of "sleepless nights" using their own talents (as well as a few good friends) to produce the final video, including the editing work and visual effects production.
However, for the new, extended version and series, the team is planning to tap more resources to bring their vision to fruition, which is why the funding campaign has become the centerpiece of the new effort.
So far, Robot Genius has raised nearly $15,000 of its $70,000 goal, thanks to Kickstarter supporters, and there's still nearly a month left to join the campaign. Non-Kickstarter supporters can keep track of the project at the official Site: Extended website.
Is this somewhat dystopian take the eventual future of real AR? It's far too early to tell. But based on what we know about real AR and developments around companies like Mojo Vision, the world the "Sight" directors envision is not far-fetched.
So, like the afore-mentioned Black Mirror series, when it comes to the moral and cultural implications of AR technology, fictional depictions like this may help us figure out which AR future we really want.
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