Steve Mann

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Steve Mann
Steve Mann with Generation-4 EyeTap
Born 1962
Hamilton, Ontario[1]
Known for Wearable computing, High dynamic range imaging, Chirplet transform, Hydraulophone, Natural user interface, Scratch input, Mobile blogging, Sousveillance

Steven Mann (born 1962) is a researcher and inventor best known for his work on computational photography, particularly wearable computing and high dynamic range imaging.

Early life and education

Mann holds a PhD in Media Arts (1997) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a B.Sc., B.Eng. and M.Eng. from McMaster University in 1987,1989 and 1992, respectively. He was also inducted into the McMaster University Alumni Hall of Fame, Alumni Gallery 2004, in recognition of his career as an inventor and teacher.[2] While at MIT, in then Director Nicholas Negroponte's words "Steve Mann ... brought the seed" that founded the Wearable Computing group in the Media Lab[3] and "Steve Mann is the perfect example of someone ... who persisted in his vision and ended up founding a new discipline."[4][5] In 2004 he was named the recipient of the 2004 Leonardo Award for Excellence for his article "Existential Technology," published in Leonardo 36:1.[6][7]

He is also General Chair of the IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society, Associate Editor of IEEE Technology and Society, is a licensed Professional Engineer, and Senior Member of the IEEE.[8]


Mann is a tenured professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, with cross-appointments to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Faculty of Forestry, at the University of Toronto, and is a Professional Engineer licensed through Professional Engineers Ontario. He is also General Chair of the IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society and Associate Editor of IEEE Technology and Society.[8]

Ideas and inventions

Many of Mann's inventions pertain to the field of computational photography.

  • Chirplet transform, 1991: Mann was the first to propose and reduce to practice a signal representation based on a family of chirp signals, each associated with a coefficient, in a generalization of the wavelet transform that is now referred to as the chirplet transform.
  • Video Orbits, 1993: Mann was the first to produce an algorithm for automatically combining multiple pictures of the same subject matter, using algebraic projective geometry, to "stitch together" images using automatically estimated perspective correction. This is called the "Video Orbits" algorithm.[9] See also patent US 5828793 , Method and apparatus for producing digital images having extended dynamic ranges.[10]
  • Comparametric Equations, 1993: Mann was the first to propose and implement an algorithm to estimate a camera's response function from a plurality of differently exposed images of the same subject matter. He was also the first to propose and implement an algorithm to automatically extend dynamic range in an image by combining multiple differently exposed pictures of the same subject matter.[11] See also patent US 5706416 , Method and apparatus for relating and combining multiple images of the same scene or object(s).[12]
  • HDR (High Dynamic Range): "The first report of digitally combining multiple pictures of the same scene to improve dynamic range appears to be Mann." in "Estimation-theoretic approach to dynamic range enhancement using multiple exposures" by Robertson etal, JEI 12(2), p220, right column, line 26. Mann's work on wearable computing was motivated by his early computer vision systems that helped people see better (e.g. while welding, or in other high-dynamic range situations, with dynamic range management, overlays, and augmentation as well as diminishment in both the additive and subtractive sense).[13]
  • Integral kinematics and integral kinesiology: principles of negative derivatives (integrals) of displacement, such as absement (the area under the displacement-time curve), as embodied by hydraulophones (water-based instruments).[14] This work has been built-upon by others, and also forms the basis for a new way of understanding electrical engineering, based on using the electrical analog of absement as the base unit.[15] See also Integral Kinematics and Integral Kinesiology[16]
  • Hydraulophone: Mann invented an experimental musical instrument that uses pressurized hydraulic fluid, such as water, to make sound. The instrument is played by placing the fingers in direct contact with the sound-producing hydraulic fluid, thus giving the musician a high degree of control over the musical expression in the sound.[17]
  • Natural User Interface: In the 1980s and '90s, Mann developed a number of user-interface strategies using natural interaction with the real world as an alternative to a command-line interface (CLI) or graphical user interface (GUI). Mann referred to this work as "Natural User Interfaces", "Direct User Interfaces", and "Metaphor-Free Computing"[18]
  • Scratch input, an acoustic-based method of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) that takes advantage of the characteristic sound produced when a finger nail, stick, or other object strikes or is dragged over a surface, such as a table or wall.
  • Telepointer, a wearable computer based on a pendant that contains a webcam and laser-based infinite depth-of-focus projector, and related technologies in the SixthSense gesture-based wearable computing system.
  • Sensory Singularity, together with Marvin Minsky and Ray Kurzweil, Mann proposed the theory of the "Sensularity" Sensory Singularity.[19]
  • Sousveillance and cyborg-logging.
File:Surveilluminescent Lights in Motion handwash faucets 03.jpg
Surveilluminescent wand: When moved through space in a long-exposure photograph, it makes the sightfield of a surveillance camera visible.
  • Surveilluminescent wand: a device for visualizing vision and seeing sight, by way of making visible the sightfield (time-reversed lightfield) of a camera or similar computer vision sensor, using time-exposure with array of surveilluminescent lights to make visible to one camera what another camera can see.[20]

Mann also works in the fields of computer-mediated reality.[21] He is a strong advocate of privacy rights, for which work he was an award recipient of the Chalmers Foundation in the fine arts. His work also extends to the area of sousveillance (a term he coined for "inverse surveillance"). Mann and one of his PhD students, James Fung, together with some of his other students, have been building a cyborg community around the cyborg-logging concept.[22]

  • Mann, together with Professor Ian Kerr at the University of Ottawa, have written extensively on surveillance, sousveillance, and equiveillance. "Sousveillance", a term coined by Mann, along with the concepts that he and Kerr have developed around these ideas, have created a new dialog for cyborg technologies, as well as related personal information gathering technologies like camera phones. He has created the related concept of Humanistic Intelligence.[23]
  • Joi Ito, a leading researcher in moblogging, credits Mann with having initiated the moblogging movement by creating a system for transmission of realtime pictures, video, and text. In particular, from 1994 to 1996, Mann continuously transmitted his life's experiences, in real time, to his website for others to experience, interact with, and respond to[24]

His CyborGLOGS ('glogs), such as the spontaneous reporting of news as everyday experience,[25] were an early predecessor of 'blogs and the concept of blogging, and earlier than that, his pre-internet-era live streaming of personal documentary and cyborg communities defined cyborg-logging as a new form of social networking.

Anonequity project

Mann is presently collaborating with a number of researchers including Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law & Technology, University of Ottawa, who teaches a course on "Cyborg Law" that uses Mann's book.[26] Mann, together with Kerr and others, are doing a SSHRC-funded project to study the Ethics, Law & Technology of anonymity, authentication, surveillance, and sousveillance, in addition to issues related to cyborg-law. The anonequity project is ongoing, and collaborator Kerr has also researched and lectured widely on implantable technologies.[27]

Self-portraits of Mann with "Digital Eye Glass" (wearable computer and Augmediated Reality systems) from 1980s to 2000s[28]

Media coverage

Mann has been referred to as the "father of wearable computing",[29][30][31] having created the first general-purpose wearable computer, in contrast to previous wearable devices that perform one specific function such as time-keeping (e.g. wristwatch), calculations (e.g. wearable abacus), such as Edward O. Thorp and Claude Shannon's, timing devices concealed in shoes cigarette packs for cheating at a game of roulette.[32][33]

Mann has also been described as "the world's first cyborg" in Canadian popular press such as NOW, The Globe and Mail, National Post, and Toronto Life but has himself rejected the term "cyborg" as being too vague.[34]


Mann is author of more than 200 publications, including a textbook on electric eyeglasses and a popular culture book on day-to-day cyborg living. Selected works:

McVeillance and the Mann-Wassel Law

Mann's "Veillance Compass" diagram, indicating the relationship between Surveillance, Sousveillance, and their ratio or difference, McVeillance.

On July 16, 2012, after numerous unsuccessful attempts to contact McDonalds, Mann published a first-person account of a July 1st 2012 incident from when he and his family were eating dinner at BFI Champs Elysées, a McDonald's restaurant in Paris, France, as follows (excerpt):

"I wear a computer vision system, and carry a letter from my family physician, as well as documentation on this system when I travel. I have worn a computer vision system of some kind for 34 years,

and am the inventor of the technology that I wear and use in my day-to-day life. ...

On the evening of 2012 July 1st, my wife and children and I went to McDonalds at 140, Avenue Champs Elysees, Paris, France, ... McDonalds employee ... physically assaulted me, ... He angrily grabbed my eyeglass, and tried to pull it off my head. ... I showed him the letter from my doctor and the documentation I had brought with me. He [...] then brought me to two other persons. ... After all three of them reviewed this material, ... [he] angrily crumpled and ripped up the letter from my doctor. ... pushed me out the door, onto the street." (alternate link)

Within a day, this incident was posted on reddit under the title "Steve Mann, father of wearable computing, physically assaulted by McDonald's for wearing Digital Eye Glass," quickly becoming the top post on the site. The subsequent media coverage resulted in Mann being successful in contacting McDonald's Head of Customer Service, but only to receive a denial, not an apology. Mann requested a review of the video surveillance recordings from the many surveillance cameras in this McDonald's establishment, but received no further replies from McDonald's. (alternate link)

Subsequently Mann sent a much shorter letter, in French, to McDonald's Head of Customer Service, but also received no reply. (alternate link)

As a result of this incident, rather than bringing legal action against McDonald's, Mann teamed up with the IEEE (world's largest technical society), the ACLU, and some industry leaders such as the Pete Wassell, CEO of Augmate Corporation, to propose the Mann-Wassell law for presentation to the New York legislature (alternate link), as well an IEEE conference on the topic of Veillance. The goal of this work is to create a legal, policy, and social climate to counteract the actions of companies like McDonald's, that are likely to have a chilling effect on the research and use of Augmediated Reality technologies in everyday life. In this context, Mann also formalized the concept of McVeillance as placing people under surveillance while simultaneously forbidding them from using their own cameras. More precisely, McVeillance was defined as the ratio (linearly) or difference (logarithmically) of surveillance to sousveillance. (alternate link) McVeillance is one of the topics of the IEEE conference.

News coverage

Additional news items soon appeared thereafter, e.g. "Broken glass: Father of wearable computing allegedly assaulted",[35] and "What may be the world's first cybernetic hate crime...",[36] etc.[37][38] Due to the employee's alleged rough handling of the device, which he claimed was soundly attached to his head, the temporary storage buffer in the computer system could no longer be overwritten by new images, the damage to the system thus causing photos of these persons to remain stored in the glass memory. These were published, with faces concealed, on Mann's weblog.[39] He also claims that his iPhone and the control board for the EyeTap were damaged after he was thrown out and his bladder released involuntarily, soaking the contents of his pockets.[40] Currently, McDonald's has stated that their investigation of this issue has concluded, according to their response to Mann, and McDonald's Head of Customer Service has failed to respond to an open letter from Mann, dated 2012 August 17.[41] McDonald's defense has been limited only to witness statements from their employees, and they have refused to answer a request that they examine their surveillance videos. A shorter letter in French, also remains unanswered.[42] Their official statement remains somewhat out-of-date as per these more recent open letter correspondences.[43][44]

See also


  1. McNeil, Mark (2008-11-24). "Filmmaker has futuristic vision". Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved 2008-11-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Mann, Steve". McMaster University. Archived from the original on 2007-11-14. Retrieved 2007-08-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Video Interview". Wearable Computing and Interaction Design. Retrieved 2007-08-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Bangor Daily News - Sep 26, 1997
  5. Part man, part machine - all nerd `Wearable computer' pioneer Steve Mann keeps one eye locked on the future, Toronto Star, Eric Shinn, Jul. 8, 02:32 EDT
  6. "2004 Leonardo Award for Excellence Given to Steve Mann". 2004-12-07. Retrieved 2012-07-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Mann, Steve. "Existential Technology: Wearable Computing Is Not the Real Issue!". Leonardo. 36 (1). doi:10.1162/002409403321152239. JSTOR 1577273. Retrieved 2012-07-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 [1]
  9. "Video Orbits of the Projective Group". EyeTap. Archived from the original on 2008-07-01. Retrieved 2007-08-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. ""Virtual bellows: constructing high-quality images from video.", In Proceedings of the IEEE First International Conference on Image ProcessingAustin, Texas, November 13–16, 1994".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Comparametric Equations". Wearable Computing and Interaction Design. Retrieved 2007-08-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. ""Compositing Multiple Pictures of the Same Scene", Proceedings of the 46th Annual Imaging Science & Technology Conference, May 9–14, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1993".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Davies, Chris (2012-09-12). "Quantigraphic camera promises HDR eyesight from Father of AR". SlashGear. Retrieved 2012-12-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Mann, S., Janzen, R., and Post, M. (2006). Hydraulophone design considerations: absement, displacement, and velocity-sensitive music keyboard in which each key is a water jet. In Proc. 14th annual ACM int. conf. on Multimedia, Santa Barbara, 519–528. CiteSeerX:
  15. Memory Elements: A Paradigm Shift in Lagrangian Modeling of Electrical Circuits
  16. "Integral Kinematics (Time‐Integrals of Distance, Energy, etc.) and Integral Kinesiology", by Steve Mann, Ryan Janzen, Mir Adnan Ali, Pete Scourboutakos, and Nitin Guleria, in Proceedings of the IEEE GEM2014, pp 627-629, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, October 22–24, 2014
  17. "Hydraulophone design considerations: Absement, displacement, and velocity-sensitive music keyboard in which each key is a water jet". doi:10.1145/1180639.1180751. Retrieved 2007-08-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Intelligent Image Processing, John Wiley and Sons, 2001
  19. Society of Intelligent Veillance
  20. Mann, S. (2014, June). The Sightfield: Visualizing Computer Vision, and Seeing Its Capacity to" See". In Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition Workshops (CVPRW), Keynote Address, 2014 IEEE Conference on (pp. 618-623). IEEE.
  21. "Committee of IEEE ISTAS - Social Implications of Living in a SmartWorld". Retrieved 2012-11-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "About Us". Retrieved 2012-07-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Mann, S. (May–June 2001). "Wearable computing:toward humanistic intelligence". Intelligent Systems. 16 (3): 10–15. doi:10.1109/5254.940020.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Joi Ito. "Joi Ito's Moblogging, Blogmapping and Moblogmapping related resources as of 6/10/2003". Retrieved 2007-08-03. February 1995 - as roving reporter Steve Mann (under 'about moblogging')<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. " as roving reporter; (c) Steve Mann, Feb. 1995". Retrieved 2007-08-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "Cyborg Law Course". Wearable Computing and Interaction Design. Retrieved 2012-07-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. "Co-investigators & collaborators". On the Identity Trail. Retrieved 2012-07-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "GlassEyes": The Theory of EyeTap Digital Eye Glass, supplemental material to IEEE Technology and Society, Vol. 31, No. 3, Fall 2012, pp. 10-14
  29. Schofield, Jack (2012-04-05). "Google Project Glass: will we really wear digital goggles?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-07-23. Steve Mann, a Canadian known as the father of wearable computing, has been developing systems since the 1980s with obvious industrial, medical and military applications.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. Clarke, Peter (2000-02-08). "ISSCC: 'Dick Tracy' watch watchers disagree". EE Times. Retrieved 2012-07-23. Steve Mann, a professor at the University of Toronto, was hailed as the father of the wearable computer and the ISSCC's first virtual panelist, by moderator...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Schofield, Jack (2001-08-01). "From man to borg - Is this the future?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-07-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. "The Invention of the First Wearable Computer Online paper by Edward O. Thorp of Edward O. Thorp & Associates" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-04-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. Alex Ballingall (2013-02-13). "Google Glass, smart watches could help spawn wearable computer age". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 2013-05-31. Retrieved 2016-01-03. Garten also noted a remarkable similarity between the Google Glass and the eyewear technology developed by Steve Mann, a University of Toronto professor known as the “cyborg” for constantly wearing his version of the wearable computer glasses. He’s often referred to as “the father” of the wearable computer and augmented reality vision. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. Steve Mann; Hal Niedzviecki (2001). Cyborg: Digital Destiny and Human Possibility in the Age of the Wearable Computer. Randomhouse Doubleday. ISBN 9780385658263.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. Broken Glass: Father of wearable computing allegedly assaulted, Slashgear, Chris Davies, Jul 17th 2012
  36. What may be the world’s first cybernetic hate crime unfolds in French McDonald’s
  37. Stenovec, Timothy (12 July 2012). "Steve Mann, Inventor, Allegedly Attacked At Paris McDonald's For Wearing Digital Eye Glass (PHOTOS)". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 18 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. Duportail, Judith (17 July 2012). "Un malvoyant se plaint d'une agression dans un McDonald's". Le Figaro (in French). Retrieved 18 July 2012. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  39. Mann, Steve (16 July 2012). "Physical assault by McDonald's for wearing Digital Eye Glass". Blogspot. Retrieved 18 July 2012. External link in |work= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  40. Piltch, Avram (17 July 2012). "Cyborg Steve Mann details alleged McDonald's assault". Laptop Mag. MSNBC. Retrieved 18 July 2012. "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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  41. Unanswered letter to McDonald's Head of Customer Services
  42. Pourquoi les appareils informatisés d'aide à la vision sont ils interdits chez Mac Donalds, et pourquoi Mac Donalds est-il devenu un justicier garant de lois qui n'existent peut-être pas?
  43. "McDonald's Statement on Dr. Mann Situation". Retrieved 19 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  44. Piltch, Avram. "McDonald's claims employees didn't assault 'cyborg'". Laptop Mag. MSNBC.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links