The Creepy ‘Black Mirror’ Universe Could Be Closer Than You Realize
Last month, Netflix released the British series “Black Mirror” through its streaming service. People on the Internet freaked.
The science-fiction show — whose title refers to the screens of powered-down gadgets — offers bleak visions of a time when familiar technologies have advanced almost past recognition. Each episode is fascinating in a fiery-car-crash kind of way, as it portrays its own darkly emotional version of our future. The series has also drawn repeated comparisons to the ’60s-era sci-fi program “The Twilight Zone,” with its ability to thread the same eerie tone and themes through different fictional settings.
But while “Black Mirror” is critical of unchecked technological advancement, creator Charlie Brooker isn’t some kind of Luddite. “I coo over gadgets,” Brooker wrote for The Guardian. He simply wonders whether they’re good for us.
Now in its third season, the series has shown us myriad advanced technologies that seem, frankly, pretty horrifying. Some of those, however, are actually similar to developing technologies out there today. And while we’re probably not headed for a dystopian future where painful memories might be played before our eyes on demand, some of the tech exists. Here’s a look. WARNING: Spoilers ahead!
Screens that track eye movement and won’t play until you’re looking at them.
In the episode “Fifteen Million Merits,” ever-present TV screens can tell when you close your eyes through an advertisement, forcing the ad to pause and the screen to omit a piercing noise. We already endure something similarly irritating on Spotify — turn the volume too low during an ad on the free version, and it pauses. But how far are we from eyeball tracking?
In 2013, Google was awarded a patent for a “pay-per-gaze” ad sales model. While Google Glass wasn’t specifically named, the patent allows a head-mounted device to track the number of times a user actually looks at an ad. A company called GazeHawk developed a system, later purchased by Facebook, that uses the built-in camera on a device to track user eye movement. Tobii, yet another group, created an eye-tracking device for gamers. The day our computers scream at us until we watch their ads, however, is the day we go live in the woods.
Eyeball cameras that record video of your everyday life for instant “redos.”
In the episode “The Entire History Of You,” pretty much everyone has a “grain” implanted behind an ear. Controlled by a little silver remote, the grain records video 24/7, able to show “redos” — or replays of past events as seen by the person experiencing them — right before the user’s eyes.
Wearables like Google Glass are the most obviously similar technology out there today, but a number of others are testing similar gadgets. One such company is Innovega, whose iOptik device consists of contact lenses paired with eyeglass frames…