July 18, 2012

Steve Mann, misunderstood

Steve Mann, contemporary cyborg [1] and a professor in the Electrical Engineering/ Computer Science department at Toronto, was recently ejected [2] from a McDonald's in Paris [3] for wearing a pair of Augmented Reality glasses! His custom-made glasses (EyeTap) are a living archive of sorts -- they allow him to record everything he does (which is apparently where the trouble started). His glasses are also unique in that they have been a part of his body for decades [4]. While people (including myself) have been experimenting with Augmented Reality headsets and content for about a decade, the first potentially viable consumer product (Google Glass) has only recently come on the scene. So in ten years time [5], it might be quite normal to see someone walk into a McDonald's with a headset [6] on and place their order via touch screen. 

Is this what the McDonald's Corporation is afraid of?


[1] His Wikipedia entry calls him the "father of wearable computing". I like the cyborg moniker better. He also invented the Hydraulophone. Below is a timeline showing the design evolution of his headset (also from Wikipedia):

[2] Here is a story from the Daily Mail (UK). It has a lot of pictures (captured with the EyeTap display, of course) and a video explaining how the EyeTap glasses work. And it says he even had a doctor's note! A less comprehensive article is available from NBC, notable for the first sentence: "No shirt. No shoes. No augmented reality glasses. No service."

Scenes from YouTube video: Above: multitasking. Center: fashionable. Below: at work.

[3] Is this typical of a North American tourist? I guess it's convenient.....

[4] They are permanently attached to his skull. I have heard that when he takes them off, he suffers health effects (e.g. severe balance disorder).

[5] That's the way technological innovation seems to evolve. It takes some time (and a few pioneers) to make a technology viable.

[6] headsets are technically called "head-mounted displays", or HMDs. Aside from being deployed in wearable lenses, they are also deployed on car dashboards and using projection systems.

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