• 08.07.12

Glasses That Turn Off The Lights, Every Time You Blink

The thing is, you never actually see the lights turn off.

Glasses That Turn Off The Lights, Every Time You Blink

The average blink occurs in just 100-400 milliseconds–so fast that we barely acknowledge the world going black ten times a minute. Blinking is an ingenious, semi-autonomic function that allows us all to worry about bigger problems than perpetually rewetting our eyeballs.


“0, 1” is an installation by Michal Kohút (with help from Michal Matouš and Jakub Hybler) that makes one person’s blinks into a shared experience. Put on a pair of glasses, and the lights turn off in tandem with every blink you make.

“In the moment when someone wears the glasses, he or she is becoming a part of the machine,” explains Kohút. “They don’t notice anything; they just start a performance for the rest of the audience. Sometimes no one notices the point, but this is also a part of the experience.”

It makes sense: Of course you can’t see that the lights are off if your eyes are closed, leading an uninitiated participant to be the butt of a joke that’s wholly of their own creation. But while this trick is conceptually simple, it was technically difficult to deploy. Blinking, after all, is really quick.

“At the beginning of the development, I tried to make it with cameras, but it didn’t work well–it wasn’t fast enough. So I realized that I couldn’t do it only by myself. I went to a technical university and kept bothering them until they decided to give me advice,” Kohút tells Co.Design. “There is a sensor which reads the reflections from the eye and compares the results with an average. Whenever the sensor reads a rapid change, the microprocessor evaluates it as an eye blink and turns the lights off. The lights then stay off until you open your eyes again.”

The effect for the onlooker must be very strange–as if the world is blinking on its own accord. I wonder what the results would be, adding such tracking patterns as a standard to POV video, whether the effect would be more immersive or generally offputting. (Indeed, faking a blink is a notable topic of discussion on video editing boards.) My guess is that having the actual blinks of someone else imposed on our own eyes would stifle the freedom of the viewing experience, much as if we could only breathe in tandem with someone else. But maybe that would be precisely the point.

[Hat tip: Creative Applications]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.