Natural User Interface: Steve Mann

Natural User Interface: Steve Mann

I don’t remember when I had my first introduction to readings about Steve Mann, but it was before I had been diagnosed with mental illness, in 2005. Research states that the onset of psychosis can generally happen between your teens into your early or mid-twenties. Outside of that range, you’re usually clear. It was a shock to me and my family when I had my first psychotic episode because no one understood what was happening; why I was behaving the way I was behaving, or why I was saying the things I was saying, why I was believing the thoughts I was believing.

One of the first unusual behaviors displayed was that I was no longer wearing my glasses, which I usually only take off to sleep. I began hiding all the pairs of glasses that were lying around. I was rambling on about how we could no longer wear them because they were tools of surveillance, and that was how I had been infiltrated to be spied on by the government. (The ideation of surveillance are an overall common occurrence with psychosis)

My knowledge of Steve Mann inspired my belief that eyeglasses were being used as a “spy” tool. Not only to be used to watch my surroundings, but also to read my thoughts and transmit them to some foreign databank. Pop Culture at the time already had movies like Terminator and Robocop, that played with the fantasy of visual computing recognition along with many other sci-fi fiction. Then there was Steve Mann, a Canadian born Researcher/Engineer/ Inventor. Mann was creating this “sci-fi” reality before it was even a concept to the general public that this was becoming our future(past/present). Mann is responsible for the invention of many technologies(digital and analog) that, for the layman with no second thought to how they came about, are simply readily available marketed products.

In 1978, Mann designed a pair of eyewear that essentially made it possible for him to wear an electronic camera and visual television display, as glasses. Later in life he had it redesigned so that part of it was implanted into his skull (he was regarded as the first Canadian human-cyborg). Not only is he the godfather of wearable technology, but his CyborGlogs were a way to stream his everyday events as news worthy events to a “social networking” cyborg community, through the use of his glasses and other computing devices, before the Internet. He was the predecessor to many things that are part of our regular online culture today, such as blogs/blogging/social networking. Later he coined the term ‘sousveillance’, as meaning ‘inverse surveillance’, which may be best understood in regards to the technology of the “bodycam”, which he is also responsible for.

During the 1970s, as a student, he opened up a new school of thought and direction for the MIT program. A trailblazer. We have Steve Mann to thank for all the contributions, in the past/present/future, he made towards the advancement of technology and continues to make as a Professor at the University of Toronto. Some may not agree with this, as the incident that occurred in 2012, when he was allegedly attacked for his appearance by having a wearable device on his face (which by that time had been connected to his skull), to which the assailants tried to rip off his face.

Google glasses failed with their first marketed wearable glasses, but as virtual reality has returned stronger than the first/second time it came around, people are normalizing this culture and buying it (Oculus).

We will be living in a time when such wearable devices become second skin like our smartphones have become. When the cellphone came into the public market, we didn’t believe it would eventually consume our lives , but they basically revolutionized the old technology of the telephone and how we function in society. Many unfathomable technologies exist, or have existed, or are coming into existence… it’s just a matter of when they become affordable/available to the public.

Canada produces a lot of innovators/innovation that pave the way for multiple disciplines. And for my personal interest, these innovators fall under the guise of media and technology. [i.e. Read Marshall McLuhan as a starting point]

[Update to my psychosis and warning signals: I am no longer triggered to believe my glasses are wearable technology/surveillance devices. I only wear them to see and continue to wear them if I am experiencing a psychotic episode. What does trigger me into a psychotic episode these days, is online culture. I must now often distance myself from my iPhone and social media, when my mental health starts to decline]