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“Digital detox” glasses black out the screens around you

IRL Glasses use rotated polarized glass to block light emitted from screens.

“Screens are all vertically polarized and most polarized glasses are also vertically polarized and so essentially you can still see screens,” the company’s founder Ivan Cash told Reuters.

“We realised that when you hold a normal pair of sunglasses at 90 degrees it blocks out the screen. So we just rotated polarized lenses 90 degrees,” he added.

IRL (In Real Life) Labs, which created the glasses, has shipped 2,500 pairs this month following a successful Kickstarter campaign.

In October 2018 IRL hoped to raise $25,000 to roll out the glasses; a sum it surpassed in three days. By the end of the 30-day period it had raised more than $140,000 through 2,030 backers.

It had backers from 50 countries with most living in the U.S., France and the U.K. However some people contributed from Malta, Ukraine and Oman.

The glasses block light emitting from LED, LCD and some computer screens but not OLED screens. They do not block digital billboards, smartphone or tablet screens.

The idea came when the company’s head of product Scott Blew read about Casper Cloaking Technology. The Designtex film is placed on glass walls and makes screens appear black when seen through the glass. It is typically used on the outside of meeting rooms.

In tests with Ivan Cash, they discovered a rotated polarize lens worked better for glasses.

The aesthetic design is based on glasses featured in the 1988 cult film ‘They Live’. In the film a drifter, played by former wrestler Roddy Piper, discovers a pair of glasses which reveal aliens’ control over humans.

With the glasses on he can see the subliminal messages hidden within advertisement by aliens such as “OBEY”, “REPRODUCE” and “CONSUME”.

Cash, who is also an artist and filmmaker, says the glasses hold a moral significance.

“I definitely dream of a world where everyone is more in control of media advertisements, technology as opposed to feeling victimised and controlled by those different entities,” he said.

Cash previously ran a community art project in which volunteers turned emails into hand-written letters and sent them in the post.

He also gained media attention in 2015 when he put up “No Tech Zone” signs in San Francisco parks in an effort to create debate over the role of technology in people’s live.

IRL says it has received offers from large retailers, though it is not focused on mass-producing them. It prefers to improve them by making them block out more screens.

An academic partnership with the University of Rochester is planned for Autumn 2019.

(Production: George Sargent, Rollo Ross)

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