Silly inventions and critical thinking

Over the weekend Engadget ran a post titled Man discovers glasses-free 3D tech in the blink of an eye (video). It featured a video (embedded below) of a gentleman named François Vogel showing off a new way to do 3D without glasses. That sounded interesting, so I ran the clip.

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It turned out that this new "technology" consisted of incredibly tiny gadgets that, when stuck to the side of the face next to the eyes, caused the eyes to each blink 60 times a second, so that your eyelids performed the same duty as the shutters in a pair of active 3D glasses. The fellow in the video played the gag completely deadpan and I have to admit for a minute I was taken in until I witnessed the bizarre spectacle of this guy's eyelids buzzing up and down like a bee's wings. Then I laughed, muttered "OK, you got me" and moved on to start reading the comments. Now you can never be sure if the comments treating this "tech" as real are playing along with the joke or if people actually believe that making each eye blink 60 time per second via electric impulses is a viable and safe tech. There were very earnest sounding comments that were concerned with the health ramifications, for instance. And yes, there were a lot of people that clearly saw the video for the joke it was and played along. Backtracking from Engadget, I found they got the story from Kotaku, who offered it as the joke it is. Engadget presented the story as "fact" but with enough goofiness in the prose to make it clear they knew the video was a gag. Later Electronista picked up the same story and they either have an exceptionally dry wit, or they thought this was a real invention. I believe that at least some of the people who commented on the Engadget post really bought into this, and I wonder if this is a sign of the times. Are we so inundated with data these days that we don't even pause to consider what is real and what isn't? Anyone who stops to think about the video will realize it's a gag. Even if you buy into the idea that someone would try to build this system, the gizmos that he places on his temples are much too small to contain all the parts needed. Without any knowledge of the human anatomy you can still discount the video as fake if you have the slightest knowledge about gadgets (which I'm assuming you do, if you're reading Engadget). If you haven't seen the video, do watch it. It's pretty funny and apparently was made, at least in part, as a reaction to complaints about 3D glasses (as an illustration of how much worse things could be). I particularly like the part where his eyelids "wind down" when he turns the device off.

Peter Smith writes about personal technology for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @pasmith.

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