By his own account Steve Mann, also known as “the father of wearable computing” and “the first cyborg,” was attacked by McDonald’s employees for wearing his “EyeTap” digital eye glass last July in Paris. Still far away from the intelligence gathering “gargoyles” described in Neal Stephenson’s cyberpunk novel “Snow Crash” the EyeTap allows Mann to improve sight and film his surroundings while projecting the captured image with an added layer of augmented reality to his eye.
Mann, who has been doing research into wearable electronics for over 34 years built the first version of the EyeTap in 1981. Still a clunky contraption mounted to a helmet then, it has evolved to a more sleek and lightweight version mounted directly to his skull now.
The events described in his blog tell a tale of an educational trip to the museums of Paris and a visit to the McDonalds at 140, Avenue des Champs-Élysées. On entering the establishment Mann and his family were stopped and questioned about the EyeTap by an employee. After showing the doctor’s papers explaining the EyeTap they could continue to place their order. Wanting to practice her French, his daughter handled paying the cashier, after which they all found a place to eat their meal.
In his own words Mann states: “Subsequently another person within McDonalds physically assaulted me, while I was in McDonald’s, eating my McDonald’s Ranch Wrap that I had just purchased at this McDonald’s. He angrily grabbed my eyeglass, and tried to pull it off my head.” Resulting in damage to the EyeTap and followed by being kicked out of the restaurant.
McDonalds after an “in-depth inquiry” states that: “I would like to inform you that the findings of this inquiry, based on the declarations of employees involved in the alleged incident and also confirmed by all witness statements, did not verify your version of the events.”
Instances like these are sure to increase with the advancement of wearable technology, be it for surveillance, sousveillance, medical or other purposes. The introduction and acceptance of next natural technologies will be sought, fought and debated vigorously. Though we have to wonder if, one year later, the prevalence of Google Glass might mean that Mann’s apparatus is becoming the new norm.
Image source: Journal de bord