You deserve a break today, indeed. Augmented reality pioneer Steve Mann visited a Parisian McDonald’s with his family earlier this month. Mann has a system called the EyeTap physically installed in his skull that records photos and video, and can display augmented reality data directly in the user’s line of sight. Upon ordering, McDonald’s employees at 140, Avenue Champs Elysees, Paris accosted Mann and tried to tear the glasses out of his head.
That was after he ordered something called a Chicken Ranch Wrap.
To recap, Mann is a tenured professor at the University of Toronto and wears something called an EyeTap, a small camera/computer that he had physically connected to his skull. He’s been experimenting in the realm of wearable computing for years and the most recent iteration essentially makes him a cyborg – a human melded with a machine. That distinction was apparently lost on a trio of employees at that Parisian McDonalds –after ordering, two of them approached him and asked him what he was wearing. For whatever reason, they took issue with Mann’s implants. Another man approached wearing a McDonald’s shirt while the other two hid their identities.
He carries with him documentation from his doctor stating that the EyeTap is not removable without special tools and he uses it when traveling and when people want to learn more about the product. Mann offered that documentation to the McDonalds employees to no avail, and it wasn’t long before the three employees assaulted him and eventually kicked him out of the Paris location.
In short, these McDonald’s employees harassed, intimidated, and damaged Mann nearly irrevocably. Ray Kurzweil, a well known futurist, calls this the first attack on a cyborg in history and Mann’s importances to the field of human-computer interaction can’t be measured.
That a pioneer like Mann would be accosted – in Paris, of all places – is a travesty. That it would happen in that paragon of openness and light, McDonald’s is an absolute shame. Apparently McDonald’s employees in Paris don’t like people taking pictures of their menus and this isn’t the first time Parisian Friends-Of-Ronald attacked someone with a camera in their stores.
Although I may seem flip here, I’m not. I propose a boycott of McDonald’s (not like you were going to go anyway) until Mann reports restitution for damages. This is an outrage and it’s terrible that Mann had to go through this.
McDonald’s responded with the following statement: