Steve Mann

Steve Mann bigraphy, stories - Professor and wearable computing researcher

Steve Mann : biography

1962 –

Steven Mann (born 1962) is a researcher and inventor best known for his work on computational photography, particularly wearable computing and high dynamic range imaging.

Public Media

Mann has been described as the "father of wearable computing". In 1961 Edward O. Thorp (with Claude Shannon) built a microprocessor timing circuit into a shoe, for covertly cheating at roulette, and referred to himself as inventor of the wearable computer. However, there has been some debate as to whether or not Thorp’s covert timing device is a wearable computer in the modern sense of "computer" as a general-purpose device.

Mann has also been described as "the world’s first cyborg" in Canadian popular press such as NOW, The Globe and Mail, National Post, and Toronto Life but has himself rejected the term "cyborg" as being too vague. Mann has been described as the founder of the field of wearable computing based on his early work in personal imaging, although there is controversy surrounding the exact definition of wearable computing, and whether any one person can be considered to have invented it. For example, a wearable camera was described by Vannevar Bush in his essay "As We May Think" in the Atlantic Monthly in July 1945, though he never built any working prototypes of such a device. Mann has also been described as "the father of AR", in association with his early computer vision systems that helped people see better (e.g. while welding, or in other high-dynamic range situations, with dynamic range management, overlays, and augmentation as well as diminishment in both the additive and subtractive sense).


Mann is a tenured professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, with cross-appointments to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Faculty of Forestry, at the University of Toronto, and is a Professional Engineer licensed through Professional Engineers Ontario. He is also General Chair of the and Associate Editor of IEEE Technology and Society.

Ideas and inventions

Many of Mann’s inventions pertain to the field of computational photography.

  • 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.
  • , 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 patent , 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 patent , Method and apparatus for relating and combining multiple images of the same scene or object(s).
  • HDR (High Dynamic Range): "The first report of digitally combining multiple pictures of the same scene to improve dynamic range appears to be Mann." in "Estimation-theoretic approach to dynamic range enhancement using multiple exposures" by Robertson etal, JEI 12(2), p220, right column, line 26
  • Negative kinematics, e.g. principles of negative derivatives (integrals) of displacement, such as absement (the area under the displacement-time curve), as embodied by hydraulophones (water-based instruments).Mann, S., Janzen, R., and Post, M. (2006). . In Proc. 14th annual ACM int. conf. on Multimedia, Santa Barbara, 519–528. This work has been built-upon by others, and also forms the basis for a new way of understanding electrical engineering, based on using the electrical analog of absement as the base unit.
  • 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.
  • Natural User Interface: In the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, Mann developed a number of user-interface strategies using natural interaction with the real world as an alternative to a command-line interface (CLI) or graphical user interface (GUI). Mann referred to this work as "Natural User Interfaces", "Direct User Interfaces", and "Metaphor-Free Computing"Intelligent Image Processing, John Wiley and Sons, 2001
  • Scratch input, an acoustic-based method of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) that takes advantage of the characteristic sound produced when a finger nail, stick, or other object strikes or is dragged over a surface, such as a table or wall.
  • Telepointer, a wearable computer based on a pendant that contains a webcam and laser-based infinite depth-of-focus projector.
  • Sousveillance and cyborg-logging