By Trevor Mogg
Google's forthcoming augmented reality glasses are set to change the way we interact with our environment, providing new ways to deal with our surroundings, as well as allowing us to record what's going on around us at any given time.
However, if digital eyeglasses pioneer Steve Mann's recent experience is anything to go by, the high-tech specs may be more trouble than they're worth.
The Toronto University professor, who's been experimenting with various head-based computer vision systems for over 30 years, claims he was assaulted in a McDonald's restaurant in Paris by a number of employees for wearing his EyeTap digital eyeglass, a single eyepiece incorporating a camera that improves the vision of its wearer -- and which bears more than a passing resemblance to Google's recently unveiled super-specs.
In an account of his experience posted on his blog on Tuesday, Mann said the incident took place while he was on vacation with his family in the French capital earlier this month. While waiting in line at a branch of McDonald's on the Champs Elysees, a person identifying himself as a member of staff approached him and asked about the digital vision system that he was wearing. In response, Mann produced various documentation relating to the system, which included a letter from his doctor. The employee then let Mann go about his business.
After ordering a meal, Mann and his family sat at a table inside the restaurant. But the next moment, things took a turn for the worse. A different employee came over and, Mann alleges, assaulted him. "He angrily grabbed my eyeglass, and tried to pull it off my head," he wrote in his blog post. "The eyeglass is permanently attached and does not come off my skull without special tools." It must have been quite a tussle.
Three employees then spent some time taking a closer look at his documentation before one of them "angrily crumpled and ripped up the letter" from Mann's doctor.
It won't surprise you to learn that Mann captured the incident using his well-secured headgear and posted some photos from the incident in his post (below is one of the guy tearing up his letter). The clarity of the photo is a testament to the awesomeness of his high-tech device -- although of course these are photos Mann would have preferred not to have had to take.
So why all the fuss? What had Mann done to upset the staff this much? After doing some research, the professor discovered another person who claimed to have been assaulted in a McDonald's in Paris -- for the dastardly deed of trying to photograph the menu.
Goodness me, it's one thing to be asked to refrain from using photographic devices in a particular location, but it's something else altogether to have employees trying to tear a photographic device from your head without explanation.
Mann is now in the process of trying to contact McDonald's about the incident, but said that so far he's received no response from the fast food giant.
"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," he wrote at the end of his post.
All in all a bizarre, as well as unsettling, story, but hopefully not a sign of things to come if Google gets its AR glasses marketed on a mass scale.
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