Camera in filmmaker's eye socket

Filmmaker Rob Spence, who damaged one of his eyes as a child, is planning to install a tiny camera into the socket where the eye used to be. Then, he plans to record conversations with people about privacy, surveillance, and how we may be "sleepwalking into an Orwellian society." From the Associated Press:
Bionic-Eye-R-Man A fan of the 1970s televsion series "The Six Million Dollar Man" (still at left -ed.), Spence said he had an epiphany when looking at his cell phone camera and realizing something that small could fit into his empty eye socket...

He said his subjects won't know he's filming until afterward but he will have to receive permission from them before including them in his film.

His special equipment will consist of a camera, originally designed for colonoscopies, a battery and a wireless transmitter. It's a challenge to get everything to fit inside the prosthetic eye, but Spence has had help from top engineers, including Steve Mann, who co-founded the wearable computers research group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts...

"As a documentary maker, you're trying to make a connection with a person," he says, "and the best way to make a connection is through eye contact."
"One-eyed filmmaker conceals camera in prosthetic" (via Boing Boing Gadgets)

UPDATE: Learn more about the Eyeborg project here!

UPDATE:'s managing editor Marty Cortinas points to this much deeper story on Spence at Gadget Lab.


  1. When a lady wanted a camera like this a few months ago (posted on B. Boing, but I don’t remember her name), there was some Simpson’s Comic Guy character who sniffled (and I paraphrase) “Would never work. A camera of any quality if far too big, and the eye socket is so very small.”
    I’m curious where that fellow is now.

  2. like I said on the boing boing gadgets post before I even noticed Steve Mann helped with the design:

    I would have done this years ago except I have two good eyes and since there is no pass thru port to the brain I would be loosing my stereoscopic vision I love so much..

    that’s why if I ever meet Steve Mann I will mug him and steal his eyetap instead. He works in the next city over so I doubt he’s hard to find..

    although they don’t seem to make a stereo double eyetap.

    for the tech:

    for the much convoluted site:

  3. So will it be annoying or normal to see his eyelid close over the video he shot every few seconds?

  4. Regarding the post that KAOSMONKEY linked to, I seem to remember at the time that people had some qualms about having a wireless transmitter inside one’s head. I still don’t know that I’d be entirely comfortable with the idea myself, but I’m interested in seeing how this plays out.

    And I second that question from EHAMITER. The eyelid over the camera is something that hadn’t even occurred to me, but that would likely be annoying/disturbing.

  5. the filmaker states, “The closer I get to putting this camera eye in, the more freaked out people are about me, people aren’t sure they want to hang around someone who might be filming them at any time.”

    and yet many of the general populous seem fine with the cops placing cameras everywhere as if they were different than normal humans.. like more trustable.


  6. He can learn to blink just his one real eye.
    Could’a saved a lot of money if he’d just join the Borg. Maybe he doesn’t want to share with the collective. He’d lose his exclusivity and copy rights.

  7. Just how closely does an artificial eye follow the real eye’s movement? I wouldn’t be worried about blinking as much as saccadic eye motion.

    Despite the way we perceive our visual field, the eye is constantly moving to scan the scene with the sensitive center of the retina, the fovea. If an artificial eye tracks these micro movements, the resulting video would be hard to watch.

    Since he’s got some smart people working on this I’m assuming either the fake eye won’t track these movements or they plan some postprocessing of the video to remove the saccades.

  8. @jjasper: >”Camera schmamera. If I loose an eye, I’m going for a FRICKING LASER BEAM.”

    I tried that already. During REM sleep I burned a hole thru my eyelid and caught the dresser on fire. The sad part is that I can’t find a replacement pair of genuine Sock Monkey socks. I always wore them to important meetings. d8^(

  9. KINOGLAZ indeed…if they can house the camera in a realistic-looking glass eye, the CIA, MI6, and assorted spooks might be very interested in this little project.

  10. @Ehamiter 10:

    Part of our vision center in the brain actually “turns off” during routine blinking (to oversimplify) so I’m guessing the eyeblin.ks would be really awkward on camera… but it would be interesting to see if people stop noticing on a sufficiently long film (visual system is highly adaptive and reprogrammable)

  11. My grandfather was blind and hated to “wear” (not my mothertongue – is this the right verb?) his glass eyes, because they usually gave him great discomfort. So I wonder how comfortable the camera will be to wear and work, since Rob will probably have to exchange the batteries rather often and take the camera out for maintenance and whatnot, pragmatically speaking, it all seems rather impractical to me. Aside from the weirdness factor.

  12. I liked this part of the Wired article:

    …Unlike lifecaster Justin Kan, Spence is not promising to broadcast all of his life’s moments. (Even Kan reneged on his promise within a few short months, as soon as a romantic opportunity presented itself.)

    Another world-class geek plan brought down by its originator getting a girlfriend.

  13. Had this idea back in 2000 (give or take). Our Lhasa Apso had an eye removed, and I joked with the Vet about putting in a little video camera ball into the eye socket. While the “doggie cam” seemed interesting at first, we didn’t want to get hours of video of the dog licking himself…

  14. The eyelid over the camera is something that hadn’t even occurred to me, but that would likely be annoying/disturbing.

    yeah, because it’ll be totally weird and unrealistic if this guy’s electronic “eye” never blinks.

  15. A joke comes to mind.
    A very rich man runs a personal ad in Penthouse:
    “Will pay $100K for sex like I’ve never had before.”
    He gets an intriguing reply from France, so he flies there and meets the woman. They go to a nice hotel and disrobe.
    “You promised me sex like I’ve never had it before. Let’s do it!”
    She pulls out a false eye and says “Stick it in there, buddy!”
    He does, and he loves it! He pays her. As he leaves he says “When I’m in Paris I want to see you again!”
    She replies “I’ll keep an eye out for you.”

  16. #6 rrh “Reminds me of Harvey Keitel in Death Watch.”

    And Death Watch was based on the novel “The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe” (aka “The Unsleeping Eye”) by DG Compton published in 1974.

    According to the blurb on “A few years in the future, medical sciences advanced to the point where it is practically unheard of for people to die of any cause except old-age. The few exceptions provide the fodder for a new kind of television show for avid audiences who lap up the experience of watching someone else’s dying weeks. So when Katherine Mortenhoe is told that she has about four weeks to live she immediately becomes a hot property”.

    For anyone in the UK, that’s the prescient bit happening right now with Jade Goody, a young woman celebrity originally famous for being exceptionally ignorant on TV in Big Brother and now very close to death from cancer.

  17. Camera in the eyeglass frame will be easier. Or you can just wear a turban and stick the camera in that …

  18. This is just a prelude to the future! Wearable computers and electronics are only going to get smaller and more advanced, and eventually something that’s part of you, rather than something you take off before going to bed. There will be cameras associated with this. At first; then we’ll just tap the visual feed from the eyes. Or the other way around, if these do not work. Your every day will be TIVO’d. There will likely be warrants issued for this material to be used as evidence, should the owner witness a crime. There is something weird in the sky! Perhaps others saw it? Good! No photography? As if. Review your classroom lectures. Forgot the exact phrase you needed to utter, before you can safely pick up the Necronomicon? Rewind, and avoid waking the army of the dead.

    I see a lot of awesome in this, as well as a share of problematic sides. Privacy laws will likely have address what can be done with the footage, rather than where or how it can be obtained. “It was like that when I got here” might actually mean something.

  19. When flexible membrane technologies first began to appear I was actually working in membranes. I predicted that our wallet could become our phone (tho in retrospect it might not be a great idea to be waving our wallets around). But I still think they’ll become thin, flexible and tough enough to sit on. Or maybe they’ll attach to the back our hand as a very thin sticker, that transmits wirelessly to an earbud.
    Technology exists today to disable a handgun except for use by a person wearing a ring that enables the gun, so a cop can’t be shot with his own gun. Of course the ring can be taken, so they came up with an implanted sensor that would be difficult to find. I still like James Bond’s gun that would shoot backward if you pulled the trigger, forward if you pushed the trigger forward.

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