I want you to close your eyes and try to remember 2012. You’re listening to Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” when Google announces its augmented reality headset Google Glass. Later that year, a company called Oculus launches a weird Kickstarter campaign for a virtual reality headset—its first prototype is a scuba mask modified with a phone screen inside. Two years later, Facebook legitimizes Oculus by buying the company for $2 billion. Two years after that, by the time most of us have forgotten about Google’s flop, Microsoft launches a thing called the Hololens that does augmented reality, too. Then comes Magic Leap. Apple’s ARKit. Deepfakes. Hololens 2. And a superb, portable version of the Oculus Rift.
But if we rewind again, to 2012, we’ll meet two visual communications students from Bezalel Academy of Arts in Israel. Eran May-raz and Daniel Lazo created a short film for their graduation project called Sight that considered the creepy implications of an AR-enabled future at a time when few people did. Shot in a first-person view, you saw as every chore became a minigame, and dating became a sociopathic hunt for trophy hookups. Through the lens of AR, life became hell masquerading as pleasure.
Today, AR has gone mainstream. We don’t wear augmented reality headsets or contacts yet, but the selfie filters of Snapchat and Instagram are a daily ritual for many. We’re hooked on seeing ourselves augmented. More recently, even Apple has started using AR to fake eye contact in FaceTime. Soon, we might not have the luxury of choosing to use AR or not; it could become inextricable from daily life. Lazo and May-raz’s original film was meant to paint a dystopian vision of the future. Now, many parts of it are reality. “A lot of the things we were talking about are things people are now talking about,” Lazo says.
Lazo and May-raz are now on Kickstarter planning a sequel to Sight called Sight Extended. They hope to raise enough money to create what they refer to as a feature film. (At minimum it will be 35 minutes long, they say—additional length depends on funding.)
It’s hard to overstate the impact Sight had in 2012. As May-raz and Lazo explain by phone, suddenly Hollywood producers wanted to talk movies (though the deals all fell through), and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs wanted to chat about what was next for AR technologies. For three years, the two found their footing as the in-house concept studio for Silicon Valley-based Meta, a burgeoning AR firm that was building its own headset (it shut down this year amid financial troubles). “While we were working at Meta, [the company] developed AR guidelines. Some of them were actually based on Sight,” Lazo says. “Like privacy—should the other person be allowed to see the content I’m seeing through my headset or contact lenses? Sight was a guide to what we should avoid.”
But the video’s message—a sendup of the future of AR—seemed to be lost on some. Magic Leap went so far as to file patents for scenes illustrated in Sight.
Sight‘s sequel will be filmed in small locations around San Francisco, with a similar, first-person view to the original short. Being embedded in the Valley for the last few years has kept and Lazo and May-raz’s finger on the pulse of how culture and technology are clashing. Sight Extended features a new, even creepier dating scene than the original short, in which AR allows the protagonist to undress his date with his eyes. (In fact, an app called DeepNude launched earlier this month that did just that.) Another new scene packages the chore of folding clothes as a lasery, point-gathering game—making the case that in the quest for engagement, Big Tech will never give us the opportunity to relax Marie Kondo-style.