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Meet the 'Eyeborg': The Man with a Camera Eye

The cyborg revolution is coming — one glowing eyeball at a time.

Rob Spence, a documentary filmmaker from Canada, has a prosthetic eye that doubles as a video camera.

Spence, who is in his 40s, accidentally shot himself in the eye as a child, and though he retained his damaged eye for years, his cornea eventually degenerated to the point that it needed to be removed in 2007. At that point, he wondered whether he could replace his eye with something that had a little more flair than the typical prosthetic eye.

He began speaking with independent radio-frequency engineer and designer Kosta Grammatis, who helped him design a camera eye. The wireless camera sits behind a prosthetic eye. The equipment to create the camera eye includes components such as a micro transmitter, a small battery, a miniature camera and a magnetic switch that allows Spence to turn the camera on and off. Later, electrical engineer Martin Ling helped design a tiny circuit board that can take all the data from the camera and send it out to the wider world via a receiver, according to the Eyeborg Project, a website about Spence's project. The first version of the eye was built in 2008, though he recently described his eye June 10 at a talk at the FutureWorld conference in Canada. [See Images of Spence's Cyborg Eye]

So far, the camera has no connection to his brain or his optic nerve, so it's perhaps not fair to call Spence a true cyborg. The camera can record about 30 minutes of footage before needing to be recharged, which means it's never on all the time. The camera is also fitted with a glowing red LED light, so anyone who is being recorded knows they are being recorded. Spence believes these limitations make privacy concerns different from those raised with other technologies, such as Google Glass, which could record all the time without others knowing, Vice reported. On the other hand, he is not apologetic about his ability to record other people.

"There is a competing tension between my right to replace my eye that I lost versus others' rights to privacy," Spence told Vice. "Am I not allowed to put an eye camera in my own body?"

Spence isn't the first cyborg to walk among us. Artist Neil Harbisson was born colorblind, but can "see" colors, thanks to a cybernetic eye that that turns colors into musical notes, he revealed in a TED Talk. Cybernetics professor Kevin Warwick at the University of Reading in England has implanted various cyborg components into his body. His goal is to become as complete a cyborg as possible. Among his implants: a microchip in his arm that opens doors, turns on lights and activates heaters, as well as a 100-electrode array placed in the nerve fibers of his left hand, according to his website.

Originally published on Live Science.

Tia Ghose
Tia has interned at Science News,, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has written for the Center for Investigative Reporting, Scientific American, and ScienceNow. She has a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California Santa Cruz.