Talk about entering cyborg territory: a Canadian filmmaker says that he plans to install a mini camera in his prosthetic eye.
While it seems awkward to write about a man missing an eye, the idea of planting a camera into that empty eye-socket not only breathes in an aroma of science-fiction, but leads to the question of whether more individuals walking around in public–missing an eye no less–are watching us with those cleverly inconspicuous devices. In what may become a trend in the not-so-distant future, Canadian filmmaker Rob Spence, noted for his anti-surveillance documentaries, plans to actually install a mini camera into his prosthetic eye.
Why? According to Spence, to continue making documentaries while raising awareness about surveillance in society. Called, Spence’s ‘bionic eye’ comprises of a mini-camera, a wireless transmitter, and a battery all mounted on a tiny circuit board. According to the press kit, Spence, 36, had his eye surgically removed after enduring ten years of pain; originally, the eye was badly damaged from a shotgun accident when he was 13. Now, living in Toronto, Canada as a filmmaker, Spence rallied the help of ex-engineer Kosta Grammatis and a team of ocularists, inventors, and engineering specialists to create the ‘bionic eye.’
Building the eye proved to be difficult in an engineering sense, thus Kosta Grammatis set out to discover and implement the smallest, lightest, power efficient technologies. Thus, the prosthetic eye features the world’s smallest CMOS camera – 1.5mm square to be exact, or as Spence puts it, ‘small enough to be lost in a sneeze.’ The video signal transmits wirelessly, picked up by an external RF Transmitter smaller than the tip of a pencil eraser. The entire ‘bionic’ package feeds off lithium polymer battery technology, however, Grammatis said that he hoped the data will be sent and recorded via a backpack in the future. In no way does the device connect to his nerves or brain.
‘Originally the whole idea was to do a documentary about surveillance. I thought I would become a sort of super hero … fighting for justice against surveillance,’ Spence told. ‘In Toronto there are 12,000 cameras. But the strange thing I discovered was that people don’t care about the surveillance cameras, they were more concerned about me and my secret camera eye because they feel that is a worse invasion of their privacy.’
Frankly, they are correct. Technologies that allow humans to enter private areas and record private situations -whether it’s changing clothes or sorting through financial information- should be banned despite their overall purpose. While Spence claims that he has no intention to serve as a ‘life-caster,’ meaning to film himself and others in a ‘reality tv’ setting, he reassured that the camera would be switched off when not needed. Still, how tempting would it be to just flick on the eye and silently record the woman’s cleavage across the room? Ultimately, Spence and Grammatis may be treading into dark territory, especially if the government gets a whiff of what the device can do.
Currently Spence is working on a documentary film about the Eyeborg Project and his experience of living with the bionic eye. Move over, Steve Austin.