Steve Mann was wearing his digital eye glass and trying to eat his ranch wrap in the peace of augmediated reality when things got really strange at a Paris McDonald’s.
Mann, who has been called the father of the wearable computer, is a University of Toronto professor and inventor of the EyeTap. The device, worn in front of his eye, is attached to his head by a strip of aluminum and nose pads. It acts as a camera to record what his eye sees and can display computer information, possibly altering what Mann sees as well. It also makes him look like the cyborg others claim he is.
On July 1, Mann and his family finished a day of Paris sightseeing and stopped in at McDonald’s on the Champs-Elysées. While in line, he says the eyewear drew the attention of a “purported employee.” Mann brought out a doctor’s note and other documentation he had on hand, and then the family ordered.
While they were eating their meal, Mann says an “erratic” person approached and tried to pull the EyeTap off his head. (Mann later noticed this man had a name tag on his belt.)
Mann needs tools to remove the gear, so the alleged grab “loosened the ribbon cable on the spatial light modulator and made the laser go into my eye,” he explained.
“It’s kind of like a painful blast of light,” he said.
But it didn’t end there.
In what sounds like an informal quasi-judicial fast food tribunal, Mann said he was brought before two other people — one who was holding a broom and wearing a shirt with a McDonald’s logo, and another who was seated at a table. The three men reviewed Mann’s documents before two of the men allegedly destroyed them, Mann said.
They were speaking “Franglais” and “made reference to ‘camera,’ ” Mann said.
Mann said he was then pushed out onto the street.
The computer recorded the encounter and those images are now posted on Mann’s blog, with faces blocked out for privacy.
Mann said he contacted McDonald’s and Paris police to no avail, and then contacted the Canadian embassy, which suggested he get in touch with a lawyer. A lawyer suggested he make his story public, and so he wrote the blog post on Monday. That’s when McDonald’s says it became aware of the incident and launched an investigation.
“We share the concern regarding Dr. Mann’s account of his July 1 visit to a McDonald’s in Paris,” the company said in a statement. “Several staff members involved have been interviewed individually, and all independently and consistently expressed that their interaction with Dr. Mann was polite and did not involve a physical altercation. Our crew members and restaurant security staff have informed us that they did not damage any of Mr. Mann’s personal possessions.”
Mann said he received a call from McDonald’s on Wednesday and says he will try to work it out. He said he is not seeking money, but wants to “make sure this doesn’t happen to me or anybody else again.
“One philosophical point I take, a person should be their own master of their own sensory perception. It’s not up to McDonald’s to prescribe eyewear in a mandatory fashion,” he said.
When asked about policies regarding eyewear and recording devices, McDonald’s noted: “With respect to recording by customers, each restaurant or market has discretion to determine an appropriate policy.”