Commentary Culture

Teen builds robot that shines laser into his own eye

Commentary: Using facial recognition software, a laser and a pizza box, a university student creates something that is, hopefully, one of a kind.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Because, oh, science. Or something.

Michael Reeves/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Ours is not to reason why.

Ours is to stare at YouTube and hope that the inventor is going to be OK.

Here is Michael Reeves, a young man who has a supple mind and, perhaps, a twisted soul. For he decided to create a robot that does what all robots will do to us in the end -- hurt him.

As his slightly mesmerizing YouTube video shows, Reeves constructed a machine that, when it recognizes him, shoots a laser into his eye.

You might ask why. Reeves, whose dry wit belies his wet-behind-the-ears age, says in the video: "It's an age-old question, is there a God? What is the meaning of life? And can I have a robot that recognizes my face and shoots me with lasers in the eyeball?"

I contacted Reeves to ask if he's OK (physically, I mean).

"My eyes are fine," he told me. "A lot of people seem concerned about that, which I admit is warranted. I used a 5-MW laser diode, and never had it in my vision for more than a fraction of a second."

He gave me more explanation of his motivations.

"I really like the concept of object recognition and machine learning," he said. "And this method of computer vision uses a type of machine learning for object recognition, so it was perfect for me. But as for why I implemented it in a way that shines a laser into eyes, I can't be sure of what I was thinking."

Did I mention he's 19?

He's currently studying at Northern Arizona University, but told me he'll be leaving after this semester. Yes, of course he studies computer science. He's going to focus, he says, on his software development career.

"I work as a programmer and contractor for a couple of institutions, but my main focus is my company that I own and manage along with a few friends," he said.

It's his enterprise in self-immolation that's fascinated YouTube, where almost 160,000 people have enjoyed his video in just two days.

Please don't try this anywhere though.

Lasers annoy pilots, rock stars and your eyeballs.

Technically Literate: Original works of short fiction with unique perspectives on tech, exclusively on CNET.

Solving for XX: The industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about "women in tech."