Meet the Eyeborg

Rob Spence, a Toronto-based film-maker, lost his right eye in a shooting accident on his grandfather’s farm when he was a teenager. Now 36, he decided some years ago to build a miniature camera that could be fitted inside his false eye. A prototype was completed last year, and was named by Time magazine as one of the best inventions of 2009. He calls himself “the Eyeborg guy”.

The eye contains a wireless video camera that runs on a tiny three-volt battery. It is not connected to his brain, and has not restored his vision. Instead it records everything that he sees. More than that, it contains a wireless transmitter, which allows him to transmit what he is seeing in real time to a computer.

The current model is low resolution, and the transmitter is weak, meaning that Mr Spence has to hold a receiving antenna to his cheek to get a full signal. But a new higher-resolution model, complete with stronger transmitter and a booster on the receiver, is in the works. He says: “Unlike you humans, I can continue to upgrade…”

As a film-maker, Mr Spence wants to use the camera to record “truer” conversations than would be possible with a handheld camera. “When you bring a camera, people change,” he says. “I wouldn’t be disarming at all. I would just be some dude. It’s a much truer conversation.”

His subjects would only become aware that they were being filmed after the conversation was over. Then he would give them a chance to sign, or not sign, a release form permitting him to use the footage.

He says: “There’s ethical issues with that, but I am a filmmaker. “If you’re averse to it, that’s fine, don’t sign the release form. I won’t put you in the documentary.”

The ethics may turn out to be bullshit; but, the documentary might be fun. Maybe even useful?