I want electromagnetic gloves to match the force beams from my eyes

18.36, Thursday 17 Aug 2023

I was reaching over my desk to grab my AirPods and I really feel like they should have drawn towards me, just a tiny bit. Dumb inertial matter, it’s so RUDE. Let’s fix that.

With magnets maybe?

Ok so imagine you wear a glove with crazy powerful electromagnets in the fingers. They’re powered down.

Then in your AirPods case, your pen, as a tag stuck on your notebook, etc, you have similar electromagnets (also powered down).

When you make a “grab” gesture, your glove figures out the direction and magically transmits an intent towards the object you’re reaching for. Simultaneously both sets of electromagnets auto-activate, you feel a pull towards the pen, and the pen leaps into your hand.

Decomposing this, the gesture recognition problem is solvable. Proximity-based wi-fi comms is doable (my Apple Watch unlocks my laptop when I get close). The electromagnets wouldn’t need to be too strong to make this feel incredibly natural - like the world is helping out - but there’s an unknown there about what magnets can actually do.

There’s a power problem too I’m sure, but let’s solve that with remote wireless charging that uses directional beamed microwaves to transmit energy. You’d mount a energy transmitter hub on the ceiling of every room, and your laptop would no longer need a battery. Easy peasy.

In the future: no gloves even! Instead, magnets implanted in fingertips.

OR EVEN: a genetically engineered fungus that makes its home in my nail roots, and slowly fixes iron from my blood. With carefully designed proteins, folded from engineered DNA, that are naturally polarised, the iron atoms could be aligned and assembled into the keratin matrix, and my nails would grow slowly from the base – thick, gun-metal black, sheet-metal strong, electromagnetic.

I would wear slim rings on my fingers to power and activate them.

I’m spoilt, I think, by the hover effect on hyperlinks, and menu buttons on my TV that get bigger when I’ve got them selected, and so on. The digital world is alive and responsive and moves to meet my intentions.

It would feel entirely natural if the world were to be responsive like this.

An analogy!

We feel like beams come from our eyes and exert pressure on whatever we look at.

Get this!

people automatically and unconsciously treat other people’s eyes as if beams of force-carrying energy emanate from them, gently pushing on objects in the world.

The experiment as described in the abstract of the paper, Implicit model of other people’s visual attention as an invisible, force-carrying beam projecting from the eyes (2019):

Here we show that when people judge the mechanical forces acting on an object, their judgments are biased by another person gazing at the object. The bias is consistent with an implicit perception that gaze adds a gentle force, pushing on the object. The bias was present even though the participants were not explicitly aware of it and claimed that they did not believe in an extramission view of vision (a common folk view of vision in which the eyes emit an invisible energy).

The cross-check:

A similar result was not obtained on control trials when participants saw a blindfolded face turned toward the object, or a face with open eyes turned away from the object.

Also: This implicit model of active gaze may be a hidden, yet fundamental, part of the rich process of social cognition … It may also help explain the extraordinary cultural persistence of the extramission myth of vision.


Guterstam, A., Kean, H. H., Webb, T. W., Kean, F. S., & Graziano, M. S. A. (2019). Implicit model of other people’s visual attention as an invisible, force-carrying beam projecting from the eyes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(1), 328-333. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1816581115

Ok, bear with me here, but Apple Vision Pro + the extramission folk mental model of vision:

What is the weight of an app?

In the Vision Pro augmented reality app homescreen, icons move towards you slightly when you gaze at them.

It’s an extraordinary active-passive sense. I haven’t used the headset but I imagine the experience feels entirely natural – it will slot into the folk physics of the world that we all carry around in our heads.

So given our eyes (we imagine) project a mechanical force, and the fact that (in Vision Pro) app icons have real-world dimensions, would it be possible to determine the weight given how much they move? (A negative mass maybe, given they move towards us.)

Does an app have the density of water? Or copper? Or honey (like the Sun)? Or meat?

I want to know what Apple’s designers have discovered seems “natural.” I feel there is vital semiotic content in this fact.

Yeah so a glove that makes things move towards me when I reach for them. Please. Thanks. Anyway.

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