Does McDonald's Hate Cyborgs?

July 19, 2012 4:12 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
Mediated Reality
Why did McDonald's allegedly try to rip an augmented reality device out of a man's skull? (Photo: WikiMedia Commons)

Do androids dream of electric inequity? In the bizarre case of Steve Mann, a Toronto University computer engineering professor and former McDonald's patron, the answer is an incontrovertible yes.

According to eyewitness accounts and claims from the potential victim, Dr. Mann entered a physical altercation with staff members of a Parisian McDonald's branch after he was asked to take off the augmented reality eyepiece through which he sees. Unfortunately for all those involved, Dr. Mann's augmented reality eyepiece is permanently attached to his skull, and thus cannot be removed upon simple request. A physical fight ensued in which, despite Dr. Mann's alleged protests, staffers of the big fast food chain tried to forcibly remove the eyepiece.

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For those of you who are here for the food and otherwise out of touch with what eccentric computer geeks are up to, augmented reality, or AR, is "a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics, or GPS data." (thanks, Wikipedia!) In other words, if you look at a real scene through an AR app, you'll unlock new and exclusive content on some crazy Web 3.0 level.

Imagine watching Casablanca and seeing sheet music of the score over the actors. That's Augmented Reality. And people like Dr. Mann had a device permanently ingrained into his skull so he could catch every single digital easter egg that life had to throw his way.

But what he didn't expect to catch was the derision and prejudice of the McDonald's, which unilaterally denies that anything outside of the professional took place.

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