Bionic Filmmaker Replaces One of His Eyeballs with a Small Camera

Rob Spence, a Toronto-based filmmaker, is so dedicated to his craft that he’s replaced one of his eyeballs with a camera-eye. Before you become too horrified, you should know that he hasn’t taken out a real eyeball, just a fake one that he’s had since he was a kid.

43-year-old Spence – who calls himself an Eyeborg – lost sight in one eye in a freak accident at age nine – he was shooting a pile of cow dung and badly injured his eye when he held the shotgun incorrectly. Since then, he’s lived with a fake eyeball in his right socket. But he recently thought it would be more interesting to remove it and replace it with a camera of his own invention.

The camera-eye looks like a regular prosthetic, but it isn’t connected to an optic nerve so Spence cannot actually see with it. It is equipped with a micro radio-frequency transmitter and whatever the eye can ‘see’ is played on a handheld monitor. The camera can be switched on and off with a push of a button.


“Literally everybody (said) it as a joke – people during the surgery say, ‘Oh you should get an eye camera,’” Spence said, speaking to The New York Post. “The idea is so out-there in pop culture and science fiction.” His camera-eye is able to record up to three minutes of footage before it gets too hot and needs to be taken out of the socket. But he says that’s time enough for him to conduct intimate interviews without bulky recording equipment getting in the way.


“It’s the same deal as ‘Taxicab Confessions’ – you get amazing footage if you get the release form after you do the interview.”


Of course, Spence’s eye-cam have raised concerns of privacy and safety, just like with any other hidden camera technology. “The two reactions are, ‘Wow, that’s so cool’ – and after a few moments’ reflection, ‘but that’s so creepy,’” he said. “I’ve actually started wondering, do we want to have constant video of our lives? It’s just another data set. And I don’t know the answer, but I think no, we don’t want that. But it’s coming anyway.”


view from Rob’s eye

So far, Spence has used the device to film other people’s bionic arms and legs for a commissioned documentary about prostheses and cybernetics. He’s also attempted ‘cyborg comedy’ at a Toronto bar’s open-mic night. His dream is to switch to an eye-cam that can film for hours at a time, which he thinks will be possible in just a few months.


He believes he will then be able to use his unique prosthesis for film projects with an emotional subject. “[Like] asking somebody what . . . they think about love, but really look in their eyes,” he says. “If you’re looking at somebody or especially get into eye contact a little bit, then it can get awkward, but interesting, and go a little further that way.”

Photos: Rob Spence, Showtime

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