“Human Cyborg Assaulted In Paris McDonald’s” is not a headline one expects to read, yet here it is, bold as brass and possibly as strange as anything I’ve ever covered, and I’ve been reporting on “bath salt zombies” for weeks now.
Apparently, there is a professor at the University of Toronto named Steve Mann who is a self-proclaimed “human cyborg”; he wears eyeglasses of his own invention that are similar to the Google Glass project, but Mann has been sporting his since the 80’s. He calls them “Eyetap Digital Glass” computers, and the overall effect is a bit scary if you don’t know what you’re looking at; they’re connected to a headset which wraps around Mann’s face and makes him look a bit like an evil scientist. Which is awesome, if that’s what you’re going for. The glasses’ camera captures images at 120 frames per second in 1080 x 1920-pixel resolution, and while the images aren’t stored in the glasses permanently, it’s still a hell of a feat when you consider how long Google has been working on their project. Mann talks about it in a blog post he wrote about the incident.
Although it has varied over the last 34 years, I have worn the present embodiment of this system (pictured below) for 13 years. This simple design which I did in collaboration with designer Chris Aimone, consists of a sleek strip of aluminum that runs across the forehead, with two silicone nose pads. It holds an EyeTap device (computer-controlled laser light source that causes the eye itself to function as if it were both a camera and display, in effect) in front of my right eye. It also gives the wearer the appearance of having a “glass eye”, this phenomenon being known as the “glass eye” effect (Presence Connect, 2002). Over the years the EyeTap has also therefore been known as the “Glass Eye” or “Eye Glass”, or “Digital Eye Glass”, using the word “Glass” in its singular form, rather than its plural form “Glasses” (See figure caption, “EyeTap digital eye glass”, Aaron Harris/Canadian Press, Monday Dec. 22, 2003).
But it seems that McDonald’s isn’t too keen on people having cameras in their restaurants, at least in France, because when they spotted Mann’s headgear they promptly asked him to remove it. However, the headset is attached to Mann permanently and can’t be removed without tools, so Mann showed the employee a doctor’s note he carries around for just such a purpose and went back to enjoying his food with his family. But soon, another employee came over and angrily tried to rip the camera off his head, ignoring the doctor’s note, which another employee allegedly ripped up.
“My Glass started acting a little erratic but I could still see to some degree, but with crosshatches and kind of a freeze-frame like motion as the Eye Glass stopped and started intermittently,” Mann said.
The employees then shoved him outside. In the altercation, a piece of the headset was jarred loose and Mann’s eyes were hit with laser light, which is extremely dangerous. He also had an embarrassing accident during the scuffle.
“The actual cause of the final stoppage (which happened shortly after he pushed me out the door) is a bit embarrassing as what happened also is that I had had to really use the toilet, at the time, and it was that I’d been going toward using the toilet but got attacked, so as a result, later, it turned out that my pants became the toilet,” he said.
Mann says he’s back online now, but some of the parts of his computer still aren’t working.
“The cargo pants I wear have large number of pockets most of the way down both legs, so my iPhone and the processing boards, motherboard of miniature PC, control board of Glass, etc., went dead shortly afterwards, and that’s when the Glass went totally dark. My iPhone and some of the other pieces still don’t work.”
Unfortunately for the alleged attackers, Mann was able to capture images of every single thing that went down inside that McDonald’s, including the employee ripping up his doctor’s note and another covering up his nametag.
Mann is reaching out to people on his blog to try and find a way to get McDonald’s to take responsibility for the actions of their employees, as he says he’s had no luck finding an explanation for their behavior. He’s also having a hard time finding the legal reaction he wants, as police didn’t seem too keen on filing a report after the incident. He says his demands are simple: he just wants his glasses to be fixed.
Penny Sheldon contacted the Police in Paris, but did not receive much help from them.
I’m not seeking to be awarded money. I just want my Glass fixed, and it would also be nice if McDonald’s would see fit to support vision research.
I don’t have the resources to take on a branch of a large multi-national corporation operating in a distant country, but I could use some help and advice as to how to resolve this matter, how to ensure it doesn’t happen again to me or anyone else wearing Eye Glass, and what can be done to advance Digital Eye Glass research in not just the technological realm, but also the realm of social responsibility and “culture and technology.