Steve Mann, an MIT graduate student is a walking surveillance camera whose mission is to watch the watchers. That's a wraparound computer circling his waist. (Photograph by Bill Greene)

hen surveillance cameras on high poles began to rise over the Boston area as part of a police effort to stop crime, Steve Mann grew disturbed. Surveillance cameras, he believes, take a "bite out of our soul." He decided to fight back. If cameras were going to record him, he was going to record them. Not only that, he'd broadcast his images live on his web page.

Around the campus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is a graduate student, Steve cuts a distinctive figure: two video cameras on his forehead, a video screen across his eyes, and an antenna springing up from the back of his head. A wraparound computer girds his waist. He calls his getup a "wireless, wearable Webcam."

The simulcast of Steve's wanderings in the world -- posted on one of the earliest sites on the web -- has drawn thousands of visitors.

The idea, he says, is to expose the prevalence of hidden surveillance cameras, including those found in stores and employee dressing rooms. "While the taxi drivers, law enforcement officers , shopkeepers and government will continue to have surveillance," he says, "now the passengers, suspects, shoppers, and citizens will be able to look back at the former on a more fair and equal footing."

In addition, he hopes that someday the Webcam can be used to help people with retinal damage by having an image project onto the healthy part of the eye.




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