These sunglasses are like Instagram for real life


A (heavily filtered!) GIF from “Tens” promotional video.

Have you ever found yourself pondering a beautiful scene — a mountain view or a sunset, perhaps — when you find yourself thinking, a little forlornly, “if only this had an Instagram filter”?

I’ve never been there, personally, but at least 1,400 people have. That’s the number of donors who, as of this writing, have contributed to the Indiegogo campaign for a pair of sunglasses called “Tens,” which promise to act like “a photo filter for the real world.”

Before you ask: Yes, this is all entirely sincere. The trio of British creatives behind the sunglasses have even gone so far as to apply to Britain’s Intellectual Property Office for a trademark on the name. In a promotional video, the founders explain that the project sprung from a desire to perfect real-life vision the same way they perfected scenes in their former work as filmmakers and photographers.

“What if there’s a way we could skip all the cameras and apps?” One asks in the video. “What if there’s a way we can filter everything we see while being disconnected from technology?”

In another scene, a Tens tester mimes putting the sunglasses on and off, saying she feels “happy” with the glasses on — and “upset” when she sees the world as it actually is.

Tens may have a good point about sunglasses and mood — as Michael Silverberg at Quartz points out, multiple studies demonstrate that things like room shade and color manipulate our feelings.

But there’s also something intellectually troubling about the idea that the literal way we see the world could be “improved.” Like we love our screens so much, we want to see through them. Or like we love the idealized, filtered world on our screens so much, reality doesn’t quite suffice.

That’s similar to criticisms detractors have made about Instagram and its ilk before: “For me, these filters spoil pictures,” Kate Bevan wrote in the Guardian in 2012. “They get in the way of the image and they distort the story the picture is telling.”

Will an IRL Instagram filter suffer the same problems? Skeptics should find out soon enough: Tens has already exceeded its original Indiegogo funding goal — £9,400, or roughly $16,000 — by 600 percent. The company plans to ship its first batch of frames in June.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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Caitlin Dewey · May 9