First attack on a cyborg

July 17, 2012 by Amara D. Angelica

EyeTap (credit: Steve Mann)

UPDATE: McDonald’s provided this statement to KurzweilAI on July 18, 2012:

“We share the concern regarding Dr. Mann’s account of his July 1 visit to a McDonald’s in Paris.  McDonald’s France was made aware of Dr. Mann’s complaints on July 16, and immediately launched a thorough investigation. The McDonald’s France team has contacted Dr. Mann and is awaiting further information from him.

In addition, 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.

While we continue to learn more about the situation, we are hearing from customers who have questions about what happened.  We urge everyone not to speculate or jump to conclusions before all the facts are known.  Our goal is to provide a welcoming environment and stellar service to McDonald’s customers around the world.”

– McDonald’s

On July 1, Steve Mann, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Toronto and renowned as the world’s first cyborg, was physically assaulted in a McDonald’s in Paris for wearing his EyeTap eyeglass, with resulting damage to his eyeglass, which is surgically attached to his skull.

“I’m not seeking to be awarded money. I just want my Glass fixed,” said Steve. Paris police and McDonald’s were unresponsive, he said.

Maybe KurzweilAI readers in France and Europe can help? Here’s the McDonald’s contact page in France. We will pass along your comments and suggestions to Steve.

UPDATE:  Khader Aissani, 36, manager, McDonald’s of Champs-Elysées as of Oct.2011:

Khader Aissani (credit:

Here is Steve Mann’s report. It raises significant questions for future wearers of Google Glass and other enhancements.

Digital Eye Glass

I believe that Digital Eye Glass will ultimately replace glasses, and will help many people see better, and improve the quality of their lives through Augmediated Reality.

I wear a computer vision system, and carry a letter from my family physician, as well as documentation on this system when I travel.

I have worn a computer vision system of some kind for 34 years, and am the inventor of the technology that I wear and use in my day-to-day life.

Although it has varied over the last 34 years, I have worn the present embodiment of this system (pictured below) for 13 years. This simple design which I did in collaboration with designer Chris Aimone, consists of a sleek strip of aluminum that runs across the forehead, with two silicone nose pads. It holds an EyeTap device (computer-controlled laser light source that causes the eye itself to function as if it were both a camera and display, in effect) in front of my right eye. It also gives the wearer the appearance of having a “glass eye”, this phenomenon being known as the “glass eye” effect (Presence Connect, 2002).

Over the years the EyeTap has also therefore been known as the “Glass Eye” or “Eye Glass”, or “Digital Eye Glass”, using the word “Glass” in its singular form, rather than its plural form “Glasses” (See figure caption, “EyeTap digital eye glass”, Aaron Harris/Canadian Press, Monday Dec. 22, 2003).

Recent news has described me as “the father of wearable computing” in the context of various commercially manufactured versions of similar eye glass, such as those made by companies like Google, Olympus, and the like (see below), so as this technology becomes mainstream, McDonald’s might need to get used to it.

I originally created this technology, and the computer vision algorithms (e.g. HDR = High Dynamic Range), to help people see better. I have also assisted a number of blind and visually impaired (partially sighted) persons with various projects, and I continue to conduct research in this area. I was also part of the team that invented, designed, and built rehabilitation technology for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and this technology continues to be used by the CNIB.

Physical assault and willful destruction of customer’s property by persons acting as representatives of McDonald’s

In June of 2012, my wife, children, and I traveled to Paris, France, for our summer vacation, in order to give our children the opportunity to learn true Parisian French (we have them enrolled in French immersion at school).

On the evening of 2012 July 1st, my wife and children and I went to McDonalds at 140, Avenue Champs Elysees, Paris, France, after a day of sightseeing (8 museums and other landmark sights, as part of a boat cruise package), and while we were standing in line at McDonalds, I was stopped by a person who subsequently stated that he was a McDonalds employee, and he asked about my eyeglass (digital computer vision system, i.e. EyeTap).

Because we’d spent the day going to various museums and historical landmark sites guarded by military and police, I had brought with me the letter from my doctor regarding my computer vision eyeglass, along with documentation, etc., although I’d not needed to present any of this at any of the other places I visited (McDonald’s was the only establishement that seemed to have any problem with my eyeglass during our entire 2 week trip).

Since I happened to have it with me, I showed this doctor’s letter and the documentation to the purported McDonalds employee who had stopped me in the McDonalds line.

After reviewing the documentation, the purported McDonalds employee accepted me (and my family) as a customer, and left us to place our order. In what follows, I will refer to this person as “Possible Witness 1”.

We ordered two Ranch Wraps, one burger, and one mango McFlurry, from a cashier who I will refer to as “Possible Witness 2”. My daughter handled the cash to pay Possible Witness 2, as my daughter wanted to practice her French. Possible Witness 2 complimented my daughter on her fluency in French.

Next my family and I seated ourselves in the restaurant right by the entrance, so we could watch people walking along Avenue Champs Elysees while we ate our meal.


Left-to-right: Perpetrator 2, Perpetrator 1, and Perpetrator 3 (credit: Steve Mann)

Subsequently another person within McDonalds physically assaulted me, while I was in McDonand’s, eating my McDonand’s Ranch Wrap that I had just purchased at this McDonald’s. He angrily grabbed my eyeglass, and tried to pull it off my head. The eyeglass is permanently attached and does not come off my skull without special tools.

I tried to calm him down and I showed him the letter from my doctor and the documentation I had brought with me. He (who I will refer to as Perpetrator 1) then brought me to two other persons.

He was standing in the middle, right in front of me, and there was another person to my left seated at a table (who I will refer to as Perpetrator 2), and a third person to my right. The third person (who I will refer to as Perpetrator 3) was holding a broom and dustpan, and wearing a shirt with a McDonald’s logo on it. The person in the center (Perpetrator 1) handed the materials I had given him to the person to my left (Perpetrator 2), while the three of them reviewed my doctor’s letter and the documentation.


Left-to-right: Perpetrator 2 tearing up my doctor’s letter, while Perpetrator 3 watches (credit: Steve Mann)

After all three of them reviewed this material, and deliberated on it for some time, Perpetrator 2 angrily crumpled and ripped up the letter from my doctor. My other documentation was also destroyed by Perpetrator 1.

I noticed that Perpetrator 1 was wearing a name tag clipped to his belt. When I looked down at it, he quickly covered it up with his hand, and pulled it off and turned it around so that it was facing inwards, so that only the blank white backside of it was then facing outwards.

Perpetrator 1 pushed me out the door, onto the street.

The computerized eyeglass processes imagery using Augmediated Reality, in order to help the wearer see better, and when the computer is damaged, e.g. by falling and hitting the ground (or by a physical assault), buffered pictures for processing remain in its memory, and are not overwritten with new ones by the then non-functioning computer vision system.

As a result of Perpetrator 1’s actions, therefore images that would not have otherwise been captured were captured. Therefore by damaging the Eye Glass, Perpetrator 1 photographed himself and others within McDonalds.

The images, all taken by Perpetrator 1 (i.e. their having been captured was caused by Perpetrator 1’s actions), were among those recovered from the damaged computer vision system, and will hopefully help in solving this crime.

Please help

I tried on many occasions to contact McDonald’s but have not received any response. As McDonand’s does not publish any direct contact email information, I used the whois database to find some email addresses, e.g. of domains like “” and emailed those addresses.

My attempts included filling out various online forms on but to no avail. I also tried calling the main number, at 1-800-244-6227, but got a voice recording that was totally unintelligible (very loud and distorted), and it appears this number does not work.

I also contacted the Embassy, Consulate, Police, etc., without much luck.

In my research, I came across Penny Sheldon, a travel agent from Boise, Id., who was physically assaulted by McDonalds staff in Paris, France, because she photographed their menu. This seems surprising because many people use a handheld camera as a seeing aid to magnify and read signs, etc. (zooming into a picture to see it on screen).

Penny Sheldon contacted the Police in Paris, but did not receive much help from them. 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.

I don’t have the resources to take on a branch of a large multi-national corporation operating in a distant country, but I could use some help and advice as to how to resolve this matter, how to ensure it doesn’t happen again to me or anyone else wearing Eye Glass, and what can be done to advance Digital Eye Glass research in not just the technological realm, but also the realm of social responsibility and “culture and technology.

Best regards,


Dr. Steve Mann, PhD (MIT ’97), PEng (Ontario),
330 Dundas Street West
Toronto, Ontario,
Canada, M5T 1G5.

Research in Wearable Computing and Augmediated Reality

The more people that adopt this technology to improve the quality of their lives, the more that McDonald’s will become accustomed to it.  You can become involved by building your own wearable computer vision system.  See for example, the following links: