This Father's Day, we want to honor the father of wearable technology: Steve Mann. (Well, Thad Starner would disagree, but we'll tackle that another day. Really.)
Mann is a polymath, with a diverse portfolio of discoveries. He's lived his entire adult life as a cyborg, augmenting his vision with a surgically-implanted device of his own invention called "EyeTap"; he's a major voice in the fields of Computer-Mediated Reality and Natural User Interfaces. He coined the term "sousveillance" to refer to the recording of an activity by a participant in it (usually with a wearable camera) and is an outspoken defender of privacy and cyborg rights. He invented High Dynamic Range (HDR) and is a pioneer in computational photography, inventing techniques and algorithms foundational to the field. He invented a musical instrument called the hydraulophone which uses pressurized fluid to produce sound, putting his PhD in Media Arts from MIT to use. Believe it or not, he's done a lot more.
Surveillance vs. Sousveillance according to Stephanie, Mann's six-year-old daughter.
The Surveilluminescent Wand showing the sightline of a surveillance camera in a long-exposure photograph.
Mann's self portraits from 1980-2000's.
All images via wikimedia commons.
Mann grabbed headlines a few years ago when he kickstarted the discussion on cyborg rights, sharing a personal story of being asked to leave a McDonald's in Paris for wearing a camera he can't remove without surgery. The incident is now a common point of reference for people who debate the age of ubiquitous cameras, and Mann continues to be an important figure in this discussion.
Four decades ago, Mann had the vision to see the world of AR, VR, and wearable technologies only just emerging today. The fact that Mann has gone from laughingstock to thought leader in his lifetime is a testament to his vision and the pace of technological change.
This Father's Day we're saying thank you to Steve Mann. Without the principles of Natural User Interfaces he first articulated, the Myo armband wouldn't be the intuitive device that it is. Without him breaking ground in the field of wearables, there wouldn't be wearable computers for Myo to control. Without him setting the example of how to think about the computer differently before the world was ready, we might not be where we are today.
Happy Father's Day, Steve!