Google-style glasses led to attack in McDonald's, professor says

A Toronto professor, who some describe as a pioneer in wearable computing, is allegedly assaulted in a Paris McDonald's by someone who objected to his Google-style glasses.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read
Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I know those Google glasses make everyone but Sergey Brin look quite odd.

But could they look so odd as to cause someone to rip them off your head?

This question is reverberating around the minds of furious futurists after Steve Mann, a professor at the University of Toronto, was allegedly assaulted in a Paris McDonald's -- by people who allegedly work for McDonald's.

I know that working at McDonald's is extremely stressful. However, Mann's tale, which he committed to his blog, tells of a situation that has caused some indigestion.

Mann says he was wearing his Eye Tap Digital Eye Glass. This has conceptual similarities to Google's Glasses and is similarly novel in appearance.

Mann says that, while in a McDonald's on the Champs-Elysees with his wife and children, someone who claimed to be a McDonald's employee asked him about the Digital Eye Glass he was wearing.

A glimpse of how Mann presented his case on his blog. Eyetap.Blogpost.com Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

This employee was allegedly satisfied when Mann showed him documentation about the contraption. Although, frankly, what business was it of his anyway? If Mann was the first ever odd-looking gentleman ever to walk into that McDonald's, I would be rather surprised.

What followed, though, was an alleged Mann handling.

After sitting down with his family and his Ranch Wrap, Mann says that another McDonald's employee wrapped his hands around his head and tried to tear the Digital Eye Glass off.

"He angrily grabbed my eyeglass, and tried to pull it off my head. The eyeglass is permanently attached and does not come off my skull without special tools," wrote Mann.

He then says that this man took his documentation and crumpled up a letter from his doctor, while another man -- also an alleged McDonald's employee -- allegedly destroyed his other papers.

He then says he was pushed out on to the street.

There is, however, a funny thing about the glass's design:

The computerized eyeglass processes imagery using Augmediated Reality, in order to help the wearer see better, and when the computer is damaged, e.g. by falling and hitting the ground (or by a physical assault), buffered pictures for processing remain in its memory, and are not overwritten with new ones by the then non-functioning computer vision system.

Which means that Mann has images of the alleged Raucous Ronalds, including one who allegedly tried to cover up his name tag.

You might wonder what McDonald's feels about all of this. Mann says that the company didn't seem overly moved -- until, that is, Twitter caused a little re-heating.

On its Twitter feed, the company said: "Hi @STEVEPMP We take the claims very seriously, are in process of gathering info & ask for patience until all facts are known. Thank you."

Following an inquiry by the Huffington Post, the company declared: "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."

Mann is so reasonable that he isn't even asking for too much compensation.

He said on his blog: "I just want my Glass fixed, and it would also be nice if McDonald's would see fit to support vision research."

It would be even nicer if Ronald McDonald walked around Paris wearing the Digital Eye Glass for a while.

One wonders, though, what it was these McDonald's employees might have objected to. Even if they suspected that Mann was taking photographs or filming, this is what many people do. They are generally called tourists.

So what might these McDonald's employees have been trying to hide?

Might they have feared that Mann's contraption could see through to their trouser pockets, where they stash secret supplies of McDonald's infamous pink slime?

Might they ever have been paranoid that Mann's Eye Glass could see right through to their underwear, where he discovered they all wear company-issued red and yellow striped briefs?

Or might they have simply had childhoods in which they were petrified by the bad guys on "Star Trek"?

One can only hope that what appears -- on the face of it -- to have been a troubling incident, is resolved in a far-sighted manner.