Exclusive: Cyborg Steve Mann Details Alleged McDonald's Assault

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No shirt. No shoes. No augmented reality glasses. No service. Earlier this month, human cyborg and University of Toronto Professor Steve Mann, claims he was brutalized and kicked out of a Paris McDonald's after employees objected to his headset and its ability to record photos and videos of his experiences.

Update: McDonald's issued a statement confirming that Mann had been ejected, but denying that there was physical contact. In response, Mann released a photo which appears to show an employee grabbing his glasses

"I'm not sure why the perpetrators attacked, but 'Perp. 1' [Mann's name for one of his assailants] did mention about cameras not being allowed," he told us in an exclusive email interview. Mann was unavailable for a phone call because his iPhone was also damaged in the alleged attack. 

Though augmented reality headsets like Google's Project Glass have just started making headlines this year, Mann has been wearing his own home-brewed "EyeTap Digital Glass" computers every day since the early 1980s.

Steve Mann Through the Years

The current generation EyeTap, which runs on customized WearComp OS, captures images at 120 frames per second in 1080 x 1920-pixel resolution, but according to Mann, these images aren't stored permanently. However, when Mann's EyeTap Glass was damaged, it failed to erase some images of his experience at McDonald's.

"It merely delays rather than records, but when [the EyeTap was] damaged (computer), the leftovers were recovered," he said. "In this sense Perp 1 [the person who allegedly assaulted Mann] was the person who took all the pictures in the last hour or so, by causing the computer to be broken."

Mann, told us that, on July 1st, he, his wife and their two children were in line to purchase food at the Paris McDonald's when an employee approached and informed them that cameras were not allowed in the establishment. After Mann presented the employee with a doctor's note he carries with him that states he needs to wear his headgear, the employee let him through and a cashier took his order.


According to Mann, after he and his family had received their food and taken a seat by the entrance, another McDonald's employee, whom Mann refers to as Perpetrator 1, approached and angrily tried to pull the EyeTap, which is permanently attached and cannot be removed without tools, off of his head.

"Perp. 1 reached his left hand out and pressed against the frame of my eyeglass, and swung his left hand around a few times pushing and pulling at it," he told us.

Mann then tried to calm Perpetrator 1 and showed him his doctor's note, which the employee showed to two coworkers, whom Mann nicknames Perpetrators 2 and 3. After Perpetrator 2 crumpled up his doctor's note and Perpetrator 1 tore up some other documentation he provided, Perpetrator 1 then allegedly pushed him out the door and onto the street, damaging his gear.

Alleged Perpetrators

"My Glass started acting a little erratic but I could still see to some degree, but with crosshatches and kind of a freeze-frame like motion as the Eye Glass stopped and started intermittently," Mann said. The alleged assault apparently loosened a ribbon cable within the device, causing the eye piece to malfunction and flood Mann's eye with laser light.  

However, the device was still functioning until Mann had an embarrassing bodily reaction upon hitting the street, which caused his circuits to short out.

"The actual cause of the final stoppage (which happened shortly after he pushed me out the door) is a bit embarrassing as what happened also is that I had had to really use the toilet, at the time, and it was that I'd been going toward using the toilet but got attacked, so as a result, later, it turned out that my pants became the toilet," he said.

"The cargo pants I wear have large number of pockets most of the way down both legs, so my iPhone and the processing boards, motherboard of miniature PC, control board of Glass, etc., went dead shortly afterwards, and that's when the Glass went totally dark. My iPhone and some of the other pieces still don't work."

Mann said that, after picking himself up and dusting himself off, he sought out Police in the Champs-Elysees area, but none of the many cops he approached were interested in taking a report or investigating. 

"Some of the parts of me started shutting down at different times afterwards," Mann told us in an exclusive email interview. "I'm still online now but a lot is not working."

To draw attention to his plight, on July 16th Mann posted an account of the alleged assault on blogspot, causing an international uproar. The incident has so far been covered by more than three dozen major news outlets, including Tech Crunch, Forbes, Mashable and The Verge.  A group on Reddit had more than 2,000 comments as of this writing. Sci-fi blog io9 even described the alleged attack as "the world's first cybernetic hate crime."

"After first trying with the Police (no luck) and then the Consulate/Embassies (no luck), and then the legal experts and human rights commissioners (no luck), some of whom suggested "the court of public opinion," I finally brought this matter to the public's attention, but only after exhausting all other possibilities," he said.

A representative from McDonald's told us that the company is still investigating the incident.

"We strive to provide a welcoming and enjoyable experience for our customers when they visit our restaurants," the company told us in a statement. "We take the claims and feedback of our customers very seriously. We are in the process of gathering information about this situation and we ask for patience until all of the facts are known."

For his part, Mann said he is not seeking punitive damages, just enough money to fix his EyeTap Glass and perhaps a commitment from McDonald's to support vision research as his glasses are also designed to eventually help people with vision and memory problems.

No matter how this ends, Mann's story raises serious questions about technology and privacy. As we carry cameras with us everywhere we go, the question of where and when we can capture our experiences looms large. Google's upcoming Project Glass will certainly be swept up in the same type of controversy as augmented reality eyewear proliferates.

Steve Mann vs. Project Glass

In a paper on wearable computing, Mann describes wearable devices and recording as similar to human memory and says that public establishments like businesses should not discriminate against people whose memories are captured by computer devices. He sees a future in which everyone from memory-impaired Alzheimer's patients to healthy adults uses wearable tech as an extended memory.

"The 'Silicon Brain' of the Mindmesh thus asks the question 'is remembering recording?' As more people embrace prosthetic minds, this distinction will disappear. Businesses and other organizations have a legal obligation not to discriminate, and will therefore not be able to prevent individuals from seeing and remembering, whether by natural biological or computational means," he writes on Interaction-Design.org.

Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
Add a comment
  • KP Says:

    I'd hate to see what they do to people with cochlear implants or hearing aids in France. I wear hearing aids that are digital,i have a remote i get calls through and talk into,can hear tv ,computer and music through my remote like mp3 player. ( I get questions and comments- Like I'm a walking computer. I find it amusing -but no one attacks me. )
    I can't imagine how freaked out they'd be by me. Watch out for the deaf cyborg lol
    ;0) C'est la vie

  • Xaviers Says:

    It is sad, the many responses made here that either have a diss against Mann or the franchise, when the issue is customer service, civil treatment of people in general, the issues of proper/biased law enforcement, and how we will deal with emerging/new/and possibly privacy invasive technologies when in the public (versus in private, and why companies can use them vs the customer). Like and eat where you want, but demand respect everywhere.

  • Jer Says:

    Buglish " I am sure as the technology evolves and more and more of the general public use this technology bathrooms will be redesigned to have single cubicles that allow for people that cannot remove or chose not to remove the devices. but until then he should only use disabled bathrooms."

    why??? should a person with a prostetic leg not be able to buy shoes because one of his legs arent real and people are too ignorant to learn anything??? should a woman with fake breasts be disallowed from buying a bra because they arent real??? dude, it is not an invasion of privacy, it is called being a guinea pig for the medical communit, but most important, the pure ignorance of everyone regarding someone's medical device is disgusting and you are no different. Understanding is the key to not being a bigot like you

  • rjwiseguy Says:

    Boy, I sure wish I was there at the time of this incident Not to eat any of Mikey D's garbage that is prosessed from the food plants that use biotechnology manufactured foods. Just to display how carrupt this fast food industry really is. Did they do what he said? Who knows but just by viewing the picture on the right at the top of the page. You do the math:) Have a great day!!

  • Buglish Says:

    Before I got all the information I was upset at McDonalds on how they handled the situation and I was also boycotting the fast food chain. But now that I know it was only after he attempted to go the the bathroom that they got aggressive it makes perfectly sense. They didn't want recording in the bathroom which I would not want either. Considering it is mounted to his skull and cannot be removed he should only use restaurants that has disabled single stall bathroom. This way he is not infringing peoples privacy in the bathroom. I am sure as the technology evolves and more and more of the general public use this technology bathrooms will be redesigned to have single cubicles that allow for people that cannot remove or chose not to remove the devices. but until then he should only use disabled bathrooms.

  • JM Says:

    Looks legit to me, and since he presented his doctor's prescription, I would think this was a crime against a handicapped person.

    Having said that, we all know that McDonalds has all kinds of cameras in their stores, why aren't we seeing that video?

    And where's that slick lawyer who got millions for that lady that squished a HOT cup of McDonalds coffee between her legs? If she can win for injuring herself, surely Prof. Mann can win billions after being assaulted by McDonalds' employees?

  • jojo Says:

    this guys a moron just another idiot looking for 15 minutes of fame

  • Only Me Says:

    The guy with 2 sticks has a 'dustpan and brush' - both with long handles to avoid stooping to reach the ground to sweep up crumbs and litter.

  • CJ Says:

    The rods that "Perp 3" is carrying are a broom and pan, have a look down the bottom. He's just a guy sweeping the place and doesn't seem to be involved. I'd also note that if a restaurant has a "no filming" policy, then walking in with a camera strapped to your head which definitely records images/video is going to annoy the managers. Damaged is no excuse, the device has to have the ability to record images before recovery is possible.

    Instead of presenting a note, he would have been better off telling them it was screwed into his head for a medical experiment being conducted by the University of X. "I film people and here's a doctors certificate saying I can" isn't much of an excuse and would seem like one of those little entitled brats.

  • Becca Says:

    It looks like perp 3 is carrying a samurai sword in his right hand and the scabbard in his left hand. What's up with that?

  • follow me Says:

    @ Anita Dirini :
    avec un nom à consonnance italienne comme le tien, j'éviterais de parler du rôle de Pétain pendant la seconde guerre mondiale ! Je pense que Musolini te dit quelque chose !?
    saches que je suis français issue d'une famille de résistants, dont plusieur parents proche sont morts pendant cette guerre !!! alors ais un peu de respect pour ce que tu ne connais pas, "ass hole" ! Et tes allusions de merde, tu peux te les carrer où je pense !!!
    à bon entendeur...

  • Priscilla Says:

    His appearance would scare a child, even his shirt isn't pressed, looks like something that slept in a dumpster all night..If he is such a great inventor why hasn't he obtained a patent on these glasses. From what I have read he is doing all kinds of things to cause a distrubance and this is not the first time. Do you want to get on a plane with someone with those glasses on their heads. Do you want to be in a doctors office, hospital anywhere in your private lives and wonder if he is filming your most private lives. Our lives have been invaded with cameras, etc. Up your skirt, dressing rooms, the works. I can see if these are needed for medical reason, legally blind, etc., but he has a play toy. So I guess the next thing will be folks driving their cars, watching things on the eye glass, who gives a dang if they hit your vehicle, as bad as drunk drivers. We are trying to stop driving and texting, so just give everyone an extra eye lens to distract them I myself are not ready to see folks driving and walking around with these "glasses" on. It is bad enough to have to listen to everyone on cell phones all day, yep even in the restrooms when they are doing their most private things. He is a real drama hound, wonder how many law suits he has filed...if he is so good why hasn't he been on the Shark Tank, I don't think he holds a patent...just a wanta be inventor. You only heard his side of the story...go after McDonalds, people love to sue corporations..

  • Bob Says:

    While I understand that there might be a very good reasons for the use of this technology how can we be certain that people wearing such a device will blank out the face of all others seen on the clip before posting it on the net. I for one do not wish to be standing in line at McDonalds ordering food only to find out later that another customer was recording my transaction and posted it on the internet without my knowledge.

  • Ratman Says:

    I guess they could not find an older picture of Steve Mann and his eyeglass! That is the one from 1999, the current one is little more descrete. It looks more like a modern pair of eyeglasses but with what is obviously a camera lens on the right side.

  • blorb Says:

    The french are swine. That's what he gets for spending his money over there.

  • Joey Says:

    wjiwfafajwhfj, you are an idiot!! The work that this man and others like him are doing will help people all over the world. What have you done to help the world? McDonalds has NO RIGHT to put their hands on ANYONE!!! If you have a problem with a customer, you call the police. You don't kick their ass unless it's a life and death struggle. He wasn't trying to rob the place, he was there with his family. He suffered humilation in front of his family and witnesses. Hopefully, someone else nearby got some of this on a cell phone cam.

  • Ianmc Says:

    Damn phone.

    To conclude:

    Problem is, are these all MacDonal's employees?

    Only one, the sweeper, has a McD's logo. The others have nothing connecting them to the chain?

  • Ianmc Says:

    The reality is that these glasses are clearly not normal video cameras and clearlynmore than that. What happened here is that macDonalds staff attacked a hnadicapped person. It is akin to attacking someone for wearing hearing aids. Directly comparible.

    Sadly the attitude of parisian restaurant staff is well known as bad tempered and aggressive while the attitude of French police is usually "can't be arsed". Says a lot about Paris and a lot about MacDonald's in France. That McDonalds in US places so much reliance on french staff testimonies is folly.

  • Steve Says:

    The McDonald's account is inconsistent with the photos published on Mann's blog. Did they not even look at his photos showing one person grabbing his eyeglass, and another with him either adjusting or hiding his name tag?

  • wjiwfafajwhfj Says:

    i think that guy is retarded

  • Jerrold D. Buck Says:

    So what are the two long rods Perp 3 is carrying in the picture?

    Is Perp 2 a customer? He is seated at a table with a food bag next to him?

    WHy did this become an issue only after the prof and his family had ordered and received their food?

    Why are cameras not allowed in McDonalds? What are the issues?

  • dave h Says:

    You have to admit the picture at the top of the page looks extra creepy. Maybe he could have told them he was legally blind and needed this device to see??

  • mpak Says:

    What good is it if you cant go back and remember (record?)instances as this. It would be perfect if the proposed altercation with the McCriminal employees could be downloaded and shown as proof!

  • Anita Dirini Says:

    If Cyborg, is telling the truth--this is an excuse for attacking a disabled person--that how I see it and sponsored by MacDonalds. We all know the economy sucks--and this kind of behavior is certainly on the rise. Cyborg apparently did everything correctly -- showed the DR.s paperwork/justification for cleareance and that was not good enough...Cyborg explained what the device was and that was not good enough...just an excuse to beat up a vulnerable person. Fear of technology?--did Cyborg come yelling in , "I am going to take your pictures, erase your clothing and sell it on E-Bay" We all remember Petain's role position World War II. If Cyborg is lying , I almost wish you were.

  • Wayne Says:

    The real crime here is being in Paris and eating at a MacDonalds.

  • oogie Says:

    He was in Paris and he eats at a McDonalds?
    What a stooge.

  • anonymous2 Says:

    Mann's story is not credible: if he had to use the restroom that badly, he would have gone before he sat down to eat.

  • anonymous Says:

    I think the key thing here is not so much where or when this technology is implemented, it's how. It's one thing to give everyone electronically documented copies of their lives - it's another to give a third party (like google) access to all of that information at any given time.

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