They wrap around your eyes like welders’ goggles, letting in no light except what gets through the lenses, which must be half an inch thick. What you see is a murky brown blur, but that’s OK – you’re not supposed to walk with these, so you’re unlikely to trip over anything. The iWitness I tried was just a prototype, but Apple say they should have something commercially viable within the next five years.
I was on the steps of the National Gallery, looking at the tourists milling in Trafalgar Square. Or more precisely, milling as they’d milled 30 seconds previously. I didn’t understand everything the boffins at Apple explained, but basically, the light reaches the glasses and then gets sent on this massive spiral journey – or maybe a zigzag – before coming out and hitting my retina. So what I’m seeing is Trafalgar Square half a minute in the past. Now you understand why you’re not supposed to walk with them.
You’re not actually travelling into the past, you’re just seeing it. Like the stars we look at are as they were thousands of years ago. Now, obviously, 30 seconds is no big deal, especially since the crowd in Trafalgar Square looks pretty much the same from one minute to the next. But Apple say they’ve achieved the main step – the principle is the same, whether it’s one second or 1000 years. They aim to commercialise the iWitness when the 24-hour mark is reached. No word yet on the price tag, but expect something hefty.
The range of possible applications is huge, from solving crime cases to a rewriting of history. Who killed Kennedy? How were the Pyramids built? Not to mention that I could prove to my wife that she left the top off the toothpaste yet again. As Apple CEO Tim Cook puts it, ‘Until the camera came along, the past was to a large extent hidden from us. Now we’re taking a giant step forward. What we’re seeing is not just the remains of the day – it’s the day as it actually was.’
This is in response to Sarah Doughty’s May Book Prompts, where every day in May the title of a book serves as a prompt. I’ve only just spotted it – a bit late, as the month is nearly over. To be honest, I don’t think I could have managed it every day, but it’s a fun challenge, rather like Matt’s Flash Fiction Foray, only with books. And it could be anything, not just flash fiction. The prompt here was The Remains of the Day, which was in fact yesterday’s prompt, so I’m a day late. But that’s because I was looking at the blog through the iWitness – you do have to remember to take it off if you want to live in the present.