When he was nine years old, Rob Spence used a gun to explode a pile of cow dung at his grandfather’s farm. The recoil seriously damaged Spence’s right eye. Twenty-five years and many painful surgeries later, Spence had surgery to remove it.
Now Spence, 38, a Toronto filmmaker, is leading a team of inventors, engineers and ocular experts trying to perfect a prosthetic eye camera. His sixth prototype of what he calls the eyeborg was unveiled this week at the Other Film Festival in Melbourne, Australia, a festival for and about people with disabilities.
“It’s like a cellphone. If you stuck a cellphone inside your head it wouldn’t work as well,” says Professor Steve Mann (ECE), author of Cyborg: Digital Destiny and Human Possibility in the Age of the Wearable Computer.
Professor Mann filed a patent in 2000 for an implantable camera prosthetic eye, the basis for the eyeborg prototypes. Progress has been slow because there is little financial interest in the project.
“There’s a big jump between prototype and production, something that is working well and is robust in the field,” says Professor Mann, who is working separately on eye glasses to help the visually impaired see better.
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