Ideas and inventions
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Chirplet transform, 1991: Mann was the first to propose and reduce to practice a signal representation based on a family of chirp signals, each associated with a coefficient, in a generalization of the wavelet transform that is now referred to as the chirplet transform.
Video Orbits, 1993: Mann was the first to produce an algorithm for automatically combining multiple pictures of the same subject matter, using algebraic projective geometry, to "stitch together" images using automatically estimated perspective correction. This is called the "Video Orbits" algorithm. See also US Patent 5,828,793, Method and apparatus for producing digital images having extended dynamic ranges.
Comparametric Equations, 1993: Mann was the first to propose and implement an algorithm to estimate a camera's response function from a plurality of differently exposed images of the same subject matter. He was also the first to propose and implement an algorithm to automatically extend dynamic range in an image by combining multiple differently exposed pictures of the same subject matter. See also US Patent 5,706,416, Method and apparatus for relating and combining multiple images of the same scene or object(s).
Hydraulophone: Mann invented an experimental musical instrument that uses pressurized hydraulic fluid, such as water, to make sound. The instrument is played by placing the fingers in direct contact with the sound-producing hydraulic fluid, thus giving the musician a high degree of control over the musical expression in the sound.
Sousveillance and CyborGLOGGING
Mann also works in the fields of computer-mediated reality. He is a strong advocate of privacy rights, for which work he was an award recipient of the Chalmers Foundation in the fine arts. His work also extends to the area of sousveillance (a term he coined for "inverse surveillance"). Mann and one of his PhD students, James Fung, together with some of his other students, have been building a cyborg community around the CyborGLOGGING concept.
Mann, together with Professor Ian Kerr at the University of Ottawa, have written extensively on surveillance, sousveillance, and equiveillance. "Sousveillance", a term coined by Mann, along with the concepts that he and Kerr have developed around these ideas, have created a new dialog for cyborg technologies, as well as related personal information gathering technologies like camera phones. He has created the related concept of Humanistic Intelligence
Joi Ito, a leading researcher in moblogging, credits Mann with having initiated the moblogging movement by creating a system for transmission of realtime pictures, video, and text. In particular, from 1994 to 1996, Mann continuously transmitted his life's experiences, in real time, to his website for others to experience, interact with, and respond to. His CyborGLOGS ('glogs), such as the spontaneous reporting of news as everyday experience, were an early predecessor of 'blogs and the concept of blogging, and earlier than that, his pre-internet-era live streaming of personal documentary and cyborg communities defined cyborglogging as a new form of social networking.
Mann as cyborg
NOW, The Globe and Mail, National Post, and Toronto Life have all described him as "the world's first cyborg", from his early work with wireless wearable webcams. Mann's publications include the book Cyborg: Digital Destiny... and the textbook Intelligent Image Processing, describing his early adoption of an alternative life style with significant and interesting ideas. In 2001, filmmaker Peter Lynch directed Cyberman, a film about Mann's life and inventions.
While some describe him as the founder of the field of wearable computing based on his early work in personal imaging, there is controversy surrounding the exact definition of wearable computing, and whether any one person can be considered to have invented it. For example, wearable computer imaging systems were described, hypothetically but not actually reduced to practice (i.e., not actually invented) by Vannevar Bush in his essay "As We May Think" in the Atlantic Monthly in July 1945. Wearable devices for timing the trajectory of the balls on a roulette table were built and used by Ed Thorp and Claude Shannon who first published their work in 1966, but it is uncertain whether these devices could be considered computers, in the modern-day interpretation of a computer as a general purpose device (any more than one might consider a windup wristwatch to be a computer, i.e., although it computes and displays time, what makes something really a computer is its generality of purpose). Likewise, an abacus worn around the neck on a string could be called a wearable computer, but it's not quite in the spirit of Mann's idea of a general purpose device worn during all waking moments. Predecessors like the wristwatch, the shoe-based gambling timers, etc., were used for computation of specific tasks, whereas Mann's invention was a general-purpose field programmable computer inserted into the visual reality stream of all day-to-day tasks.