This AR tech could be straight out of Black Mirror
Andrew McHugh wants to change the way we save and replay our memories. With a smartphone app that captures scenes as holograms.
A corner of a room with an empty couch. A man's hand juts into the frame, interacting with an AR menu. Suddenly, a woman with a baby appears on the couch. The man approaches the child and touches its head.
But neither the woman nor the child are real. The scene is nothing more than a hologram recorded in the same place at an earlier time. A three-dimensional window into the past.
This scene was recorded and replayed by Andrew McHugh. It shows his wife and child.
"Sometimes we try to capture these memories with photos or videos. These act as memory anchors, allowing us to travel back to those moments and the moments around the anchor. Photos and videos are great to look at, but they don’t give you the same experience as being there again," McHugh writes in a Medium article introducing his smartphone app, Wist.
The iOS app uses the LIDAR scanner on newer iPhones to capture the depth information of a scene in addition to the image and sound.
The recording can then be overlaid and played back as an AR hologram over the location where it was captured. On the smartphone display or more immersive with a VR headset like Meta Quest 2, which supports augmented reality in pass-through mode.
Beautiful or dystopian?
The video shows the captured memory through the lenses of a Meta Quest Pro, which reconstructs the physical environment in color.
Since the hologram and the reconstruction of the physical world are far from flawless, the video has a low-fi character that makes the memory seem all the more real - or eerie, depending on how much you like the idea of being able to store memories tied to their location and in an almost three-dimensional way.
Wist is currently in closed alpha testing. McHugh previously worked at Samsung for several years, researching VR and AR. He left the company in 2021 to launch his startup, Wist Labs. According to his Medium post, the engineer is looking for a co-founder and seed funding to improve his app and get it into beta.
He also plans to launch a Meta-Quest app that allows people to watch the hologram videos alone or with others.