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In the Eye of the Camera


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In 2005, following a gradual deterioration in his eyesight, Canadian filmmaker Rob Spence was forced to have his right eye surgically removed. Rather than let this end a burgeoning career, Spence took inspiration from a childhood love of science fiction and began a collaborative process to develop a tiny in-eye camera to replace the one he lost.

Working with Kosta Grammatis, a former employee of a satellite company, Spence has created a device that allows him to capture footage and transmit live images to a wireless receiver.

Now in its third incarnation, the bionic eye works with the coral ball and coupling device that was fitted in Spence’s eye-socket following his operation six years ago. The removable camera can be inserted and attached to the coral ball, where the technology of the coupling device allows Spence to move the camera in tandem with his natural eye, and thereby direct its focus.

The inspiration behind his elected transformation to his alter ego, “Eyeborg”, arose from his childhood love of science fiction and his adult passion for documentary filmmaking.

As Spence explains, “The motivation to put a camera in there was a combination of being an immature adult who wants to be like Star Trek or the Bionic Man, and an opportunity to make more interesting documentary film that has a more interesting point of view.”

This ‘in-eye’ filming has become an integral part of Spence’s documentary film-making, as he explores the way that the absence of the camera affects the way his subjects are captured on film. The shots captured by Spence are entirely unique in their aesthetic. Complete with the blinking and glancing that characterises actual human vision, the images captured by the bionic eye present subjects as they are, without the mediation of traditional recording equipment.

In his latest film, a documentary entitled Deus Ex: The Eyeborg Documentary, Spence investigates some of the innovations in bionics that are taking place around the world and speaks to some of the people testing them.

Speaking on the future of the bionic eye, Spence is optimistic. In an interview to BBC News Spence says, “I liken bionic eye technology – this is the sight-restoration kind, not my kind, to very early television. Just as television progressed from blurry images to something approximating human vision, I see that happening as well with sight-restoration technology.”

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