Bionic eye for an eye

Rob Spence is on his way to becoming a superhero, as he prepares to install a prosthetic eye in his head that doubles...

Rob Spence is on his way to becoming a superhero, as he prepares to install a prosthetic eye in his head that doubles as a camera. The Toronto filmmaker’s latest, the Eyeborg Project, is meant to be a documentary that comments on surveillance in today’s society, but it’s also the story of a man living with a bionic eye. Not unlike the story of a certain crimefighter, he says.

‘If you look at Ironman, it’s about the arms trade, but really it’s about [alter ego] Tony Stark going on a personal journey. So that’s what this film is like,’ says Spence.

‘I have an origin much like any other superhero,’ he says of the incident that took away his right eye. He injured it as a child, shooting at a pile of cow dung. ‘Which I hit, by the way,’ says Spence.

As a documentary filmmaker — his previous work includes 2007′s Let’s All Hate Toronto — Spence is going on a personal journey to see if he can turn his loss into a gain. Initially he wanted to ‘become a human surveillance camera to provide a bit of balance against privacy encroachments that are happening now,’ he explains.

He is working with engineer Kosta Grammatis, who is building the eye with help from a team of scientists including Steve Mann, best known for creating wearable computers.

Grammatis joined the project after reading an article in Wired in which Spence said he was looking for engineers. Spence flew the L.A-based engineer to Toronto to help him work on the project. Grammatis has been building the eye camera while living in Spence’s guest bedroom for a month now.

‘It’s really difficult,’ says Grammatis. ‘We’re talking about state-of-the-art, ‘world’s smallest’ stuff.’ Compact cameras, tiny transmitters and microscopic circuit boards are some of the technology the engineer is working with daily to make this camera eye a reality.

For now, the Eyeborg Project is twofold. It’s about perfecting the eye camera and also looking for funding. Since going public with the project, Spence has generated much publicity, which he hopes will prove there’s sufficient public interest in the story.

From Realscreen Daily