Eyeborg; This Filmmaker Replaced His Eyeballs With Bionic Camera


For those who think some things are impossible, or have a hard time believing in incredible inventions, here’s another shocker from this 43-year old Toronto-based Canadian Filmmaker Rob Spence a.k. a The Eyeborg, who is so dedicated to his craft that he’s replaced one of his eyeballs with a camera-eye.

The less shocking news is that he hasn’t taken out a real eyeball, just a fake one that he’s had since he was a child.

Rob Spence is a one eyed filmmaker who has a prosthetic (implanted) eye with a wireless video camera embedded in it. Its not connected to his brain but it does provide the world’s first literal point of view including glancing around and blinking.

Rob who has always loved science fiction, calls himself an Eyeborg. He lost sight in one eye in a shotgun accident at age nine and he’s since then lived with a fake eyeball in his right eye until recently when he thought it would be more interesting to remove it and replace it with a camera-eye of his own invention.

He said,

The motivation to put a camera in there was a combination of being an immature adult who wants to be like Star Trek or the Bionic Man, and an opportunity to make more interesting documentary films that a have a more literal point of view.

The eye-cam works like a regular camera and fits in his eye socket but due to overheating, only three minutes of footage can be recorded at one time. However, Spence says that’s time enough for him to conduct intimate interviews without bulky recording equipment getting in the way.

Spence cannot actually see with the camera-eye which looks like a regular prosthetic, because it isn’t connected to an optic nerve . It is equipped with a micro radio-frequency transmitter and whatever the eye can ‘see’ is played on a handheld monitor. The camera can be switched on and off with a push of a button. It contains a wireless transmitter, which allows him to transmit what he is seeing in real time to a computer.

rob spence 2

So far, Spence has used the device to film other people’s bionic arms and legs for a commissioned documentary about prostheses and cybernetics. He’s also attempted ‘cyborg comedy’ at a Toronto bar’s open-mic night. His dream is to switch to an eye-cam that can film for hours at a time, which he thinks will be possible in just a few months.

As a film-maker, Mr Spence wants to use the camera to record “truer” conversations than would be possible with a handheld camera.

He says,

When you bring a camera, people change. I wouldn’t be disarming at all. I would just be some dude. It’s a much truer conversation.

His subjects would only become aware that they were being filmed after the conversation was over. Then he would give them a chance to sign, or not sign, a release form permitting him to use the footage.

He says:

There’s ethical issues with that, but I am a filmmaker. If you’re averse to it, that’s fine, don’t sign the release form. I won’t put you in the documentary.

He believes he will then be able to use his unique prosthesis for film projects with an emotional subject.

Hear him:

Like asking somebody what . . . they think about love, but really look in their eyes. If you’re looking at somebody or especially get into eye contact a little bit, then it can get awkward, but interesting, and go a little further that way.

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The Eyeborg Project;

The camera was built by his friend, a multi-talented engineer Kosta Grammatis, who used to work for satellite and rocket company SpaceX. He designed and executed the world’s first wireless camera inside a prosthetic eye on Rob’s coffee table.

Kosta used an ocularist, Phil Bowen’s two part prosthetic eye shell that could house electronics and then worked alongside Rf-links.com (a world leader in RF wireless design), they custom-made the innovative miniature camera and micro RF transmitter that is essential to our current and much improved model.

Martin Ling, an electrical engineer, later joined the team by designing a circuit board to connect the tiny battery, camera and transmitter so it could send out what Rob’s eye cam sees to a receiver and beyond! Time magazine has named it as one of the best inventions of 2009.

Reports say the Eyeborg team are set to develop an eyecam that looks like a real eye.

Of course, Spence’s eye-cam has raised concerns of privacy and safety, just like with any other hidden camera technology.

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