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McDonald’s Denies Paris Staff Assaulted Canadian Cyborg

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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McDonald’s claims an engineer with augmented reality glasses permanently attached to his skull was not assaulted

McDonald’s has claimed an incident involving a Canadian pioneer in wearable computing at its Champs Elysée restaurant in Paris earlier this month was “polite”.

The company’s statement contradicts the account of Steve Mann, a Toronto University computer engineering professor who has had a “computer vision system” attached to his head for the past 13 years. Mann claimed in a blog post this week that staff at the restaurant assaulted him, attempted to remove his “augmediated reality” device and then forcibly ejected him from the restaurant.

Family holiday

The incident occurred on 1 July, while Mann was in Paris on holiday with his wife and children. Mann claimed that two staff members approached him while he ate, attempted to remove his “digital eye glass” device (see picture), “angrily” tore up a doctor’s note explaining why Mann wears the device, and then pushed him out the door.

Mann said his “EyeTap” device, unlike Google’s similar Glass prototype, is attached permanently to his skull and cannot be removed without “special tools”.

EyeTap, intended to “help people see better”, does not ordinarily permanently store images, according to Mann. However, the physical movements involved in the event triggered a function that recorded the images held in the device’s buffers.

“By damaging the Eye Glass, Perpetrator 1 photographed himself and others within McDonald’s,” Mann wrote.

After attempting unsuccessfully to contact McDonald’s, Mann posted his account of what had happened on his blog, along with several images, including one of a staff member attempting to remove the EyeTap device (pictured).

Investigation

In a statement on Wednesday, McDonald’s said it had launched an investigation on being made aware of Mann’s complaints on 16 July. The company confirmed that Mann was asked to leave the restaurant, but said the interaction “did not involve a physical altercation”.

“Several staff members involved have been interviewed individually, and all independently and consistently expressed that their interaction with Dr. Mann was polite and did not involve a physical altercation,” the company stated. “Our crew members and restaurant security staff have informed us that they did not damage any of Mr. Mann’s personal possessions.”

McDonald’s said it has contacted Mann and is awaiting further information from him.

The company also wrote directly to Mann via Twitter: “We take the claims very seriously, are in process of gathering info & ask for patience until all facts are known.”

Unanswered questions

In France, discussion of the incident has caused a stir through blogs and social networks such as Twitter (under the hashtag #mcdogate), and has attracted coverage in national publications including L’Express, Le Figaro and Le Parisien.

In a statement released to the French media, McDonald’s said it was conducting a “thorough investigation” and said that “if the facts seem to implicate one or several members of the establishment’s staff, we will take appropriate measures”.

French reports noted that there continues to be a mystery around exactly what happened and why Mann was asked to leave the restaurant. Reports have noted a separate incident where a woman was asked to leave a McDonald’s restaurant after photographing a menu.

Company representatives have clarified that there is not necessarily a company-wide policy against photographing within restaurants, but said individual restaurants are permitted to establish their own rules.

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