In 1988, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper hit the cinema screens in the cult classic They Live. The film became best known for its scenes featuring a magical pair of sunglasses that revealed subliminal messages hidden in the advertising all around us. This iconic concept was one of the main inspirations behind the IRL Glasses, even informing the final frame design.
"It's really the perfect analogy because in 1988, billboards and outdoor ads were the main sources of mental pollution and manipulation," says Ivan Cash, one of the creators of the IRL Glasses in an interview with Motherboard. "Fast-forward 30 years, it's screens telling us to obey, conform, and consume. It was only a matter of time before someone started blocking them."
The technology behind the glasses is remarkably simple. Based on the idea of horizontal polarized optics, the glasses reveal that by flattening and rotating a polarized lens it can essentially block out all the light coming out of an LCD or LED screen, ultimately turning the screen black and making it seem switched off. The polarization used on the glasses is said to still effectively function as it would on a normal pair of UV-blocking sunglasses.
This first iteration of the IRL Glasses are classified as a "beta" version by the makers. They stress the glasses should work with "most" LCD or LED televisions, and "some" LCD or LED computers. OLED or AMOLED smartphones are not blocked by the glasses, nor are most digital billboards which are also generally OLED technology.
The makers of the glasses are upfront about the initial limitations of this design, but they also note a dedication to expand the technology in the future. "We hope the success of this campaign attracts private investors, allowing us to raise capital and pursue R&D to work with industry-leading talent to develop an advanced pair of IRL Glasses that block all screens, including OLED and smartphones," the makers note.
The IRL Glasses are currently available for preorder on Kickstarter for US$49. The estimated shipping date is April 2019, and considering the reasonably simple nature of the product it isn't too difficult to imagine this goal being reached. However, as with all crowdfunding, buyer beware.