Who is Cyberman?


Steve Mann, inventor of WearComp (wearable computer) and WearCam (eyetap camera and reality mediator), is currently a faculty member at University of Toronto, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Dr. Mann has been working on his WearComp invention for more than 20 years, dating back to his high school days in the 1970s. He brought his inventions and ideas to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1991, and is considered to have brought the seed that later become the MIT Wearable Computing Project. He also built the world's first covert fully functional WearComp with display and camera concealed in ordinary eyeglasses in 1995, for the creation of his award winning documentary ShootingBack. He received his PhD degree from MIT in 1997 in the new field he had initiated. He is also inventor of the chirplet transform, a new mathematical framework for signal processing.

Mann was both the founder and the Publications Chair of the first IEEE International Symposium on Wearable Computing (ISWC97).

He also chaired the first Special Issue on Wearable Computing in Personal Technologies Journal, and has given numerous Keynote Addresses on the subject, including the Keynote at the first International Conference on Wearable Computing , the Keynote at the Virtual Reality conference, and the Keynote at the McLuhan Conference on Culture and Technology, on the subject of Privacy issues and Wearable Computers.

RealVideoSteve's parents - his mother and father talk about how they were frequently covertly recorded by Steve and his brother during childhood.

RealVideoSteve's wife - Steve talks about his wife Betty, who has also been a "cyborg" for over 15 years.

RealVideo"I wanted to be a telephone repairman" - Steve discusses his childhood dream.

(Notes from Steve Mann's Keynote Address at the McLuhan Symposium on Culture and Technology; Friday, October 23, from 4:00 - 5:30)

Timeline of Steve Mann's work

I AM A CAMERA: Humanistic Intelligence...
Historical Overview/Context

There is so much material, in a complicated web of interconnected links, that the only way to really organize it seems to be chronologically Thus I'll start with a short chronology from my early visions and embodiments of WearComp (wearable computer) and WearCam (wearable camera) in the 1970s to where we are today.
Looking 20 years back (in Canada in the 1970s)
Looking 10 years back (in Canada in the 1980s)
  • Further developments+improvements of the WearComp, WearCam invention.
  • Early 1980s: WearComp+biosensors (McMaster University in Canada)
  • Mid 1980s: Sparked by complaints from paranoid security guards in various places (such as the TTC, shopping malls, etc.), Mann takes a personal interest in wearable recording devices and privacy issues related to wearable computers/cameras, etc..
  • 1985: Mann formulates the concept of `reflectionism', and comes to the realization that individuals should be able to protect themselves with a wearable personal safety camera if under surveillance by an establishment's cameras.
  • If the pen is mightier than the sword, then perhaps the camera is mightier than the gun. ShootingBack.
  • Late 1980s: BlindVision: WearComp+radar+vibravest system for the visually challenged.
Recent past (in the United States in the 1990s)
  • 1991: Mann brought his WearComp/WearCam inventions to MIT, installed his wireless infrastructure he brought from Canada, and starting, in 1991, what was to eventually become the MIT Wearable Computing Project.
  • See a typical N1NLF installation
  • 1992: had a vision of community of cyborgs; applied for radio license obtained in 1992... New England Spectrum Management Council 100kHz specificially for community of cyborgs.
  • 1991-1993: first 2 years at MIT were years of lonliness.
    • Away from family, but still connected through WearComp
    • Was the only person at MIT with any kind of wearable computer at that time
  • 1993: potential end to lonliness in sight... talented fellow named Platt builds a WearComp for fellow MIT student Starner.
  • Although this rig was text-only, and wasn't connected to the Internet, at least there was one other cyborg at MIT.
  • 1995: Mann develops covert embodiment of WearCam/WearComp invention (in ordinary thin-frame eyeglasses).
  • 1995: Mann and others assist newcomers in becoming cyborgs.
  • 1995: Faculty members officially recognize this effort.
  • 1994-1996: Mann's nearly continuous 2 year long personal documentary video in Mediated Reality with full-duplex wireless video, often reaching 30 frames/second both ways simultaneoulsy. Lab's first WWW server which Mann set up in his office, hosted wearable wireless webcam.
  • 1996: Mann develops full-colour covert embodiment of WearCam/WearComp invention (in ordinary sunglasses).
  • 1996: Mann proposes to IEEE Computer Society (including President) an international symposium on wearable computing. Overwhelming "yes" from all contacted in IEEE: indicates strong potential for scholarly basis for future WearComp research.
  • 1997: Mann becomes interested in the work of Arthur Kroker, Paul Virilio (read `Vision Machine', etc.) and re-thinks some of his early ideas in these new contexts.
  • 1997: Documentary video `ShootingBack' presented at invited Plenary Symposium Lecture, Ars Electronica, Linz. Along with the lecture, Mann presents a week-long performance addressing privacy issues and wearable recording devices.
  • Theoretical framework for ShootingBack
Present (in Canada, 1997, 1998)

[The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 3.26.2000]

Being Steve Mann: Cyberwear
pioneer alters his reality

By Jay Bookman
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer

Steve Mann can sound strange.

"For two years, I had 30,000 people inside my head, watching what I did every day, altering my reality, offering suggestions on what I should do next," recalls the University of Toronto professor. "I finally had to shut it down, though. My head space got a little too crowded."

No, Mann's not crazy. From 1994 to 1996, while a grad student at MIT in Boston, he streamed live video directly onto the Internet from a device that was mounted on his head. Everything Mann saw and heard during his day, visitors on his Web site could see and hear as well. The experiment allowed Net users to literally view the world as Mann experienced it. From their computers, they could also communicate directly with Mann, which gave him a rather odd ability. As he went about life, he could benefit from the combined brainpower and experience of those looking over his shoulder via the Internet.

Being Steve Mann: Cyberwear pioneer alters his reality - read the entire article on Steve Mann's website.