What is this world coming to when a person is assaulted because someone took offence to their medical prosthetic? That is essentially what happened when Dr. Steve Mann from Toronto, Ontario was on vacation with his family.
Dr. Mann uses a form of “wearable computing” known as an Eye Glass – a prosthetic Augmediated Reality device attached to his head that assists vision. He invented the technology, and while the cybernetic eyeglass-styled implant may seem out of place, he does carry documentation that justifies his use of the device.
But just last month, while on vacation in Paris, France, Dr Mann and his family entered a McDonald’s Restaurant to partake in some international McFood. He let his children practice their french and place their order. He was asked about the Eye Glass device and he provided his documentation. He was not challenged at all, and was served as any regular customer would have. It wasn’t until he was seated that he was approached by 3 staff members at the McDonald’s and was asked to explain the camera device on his face.
Dr Mann produced his documentation and was happy to share his life long work that has already assisted the visually impaired to see. After reviewing the documents, the alleged assailants tore up the papers and then one man, claiming to be a McDonald’s Employee (while concealing his name badge), attempted to grab the glasses off Dr Mann’s face.
The problem with this assault was not just the invasion of personal space, but rather the prosthetic device requires special tools to be removed – it is fully attached to Dr Mann’s head.
The Augmediated Reality device does not ‘record’ exactly, however as part of its imaging process it does contain a small buffer which is constantly overwritten. Fortunately for Dr Mann, when the device was damaged in the assault, the buffered imagery left him with a visual account of the assault, as no new data was being received to overwrite that clip of information. If it hadn’t been damaged, the images would not have been saved and he would have had no evidence of his encounter at all.
The sad part of this story is that the Paris Police did nothing to assist Dr Mann, and McDonalds in France have yet to respond to his contact.
Dr Mann is not attempting to extort McDonald’s over this incident, like someone with coffee that is too hot. He is, however, hoping they will cover the cost to repair his damaged Eye Glass device. He is also suggesting that McDonald’s may want to make a gesture to support Vision Research, and educate their staff on the visually impaired.
McDonald’s has had a longstanding policy against recording devices in their restaurants, fearing people may observe and duplicate trade secrets and procedures, however this seems very extreme. Did the manager have the right to confront Dr Mann about his Eye Glass? Absolutely. Did they have the right to damage his property? Not at all.
Makes you wonder how they might react when Google Glass becomes a reality?