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Worlds First Official Cyborg Hears Colors

Worlds First Official Cyborg Hears Colors

Eyeborg gives color-vision to the colorblind…

The bridge between humans and robotics has seen a major progression in recent years. In the last year alone we’ve seen amazing advancements in prosthetics such as the Luke Arm, we’ve seen the world’s first person to be infected with a computer virus, we’ve even witnessed the blind regain eyesight thanks to the BrainPort.

Now, bridging the gap even closer, once colorblind Neil Harbisson can not only see the world in the color but the device that allows him to do so, has finally been allowed in his passport photo, confirming his status as a Cyborg.

neil harbisson cyborg 550x364 Worlds First Official Cyborg Hears Colors

Neil Harbisson

Neil Harbisson, born to a British father and Spanish mother in 1982, was diagnosed early in his childhood with achromatopsia – a condition which meant he could only see in black and white.

Taking an interest in Art, Harbisson enrolled for Fine Arts at the Institut Alexandre Satorras where he was given permission to complete the course using only black, white and their intermediate shades in drawing.

But in 2003, following a move to the UK to study at the Dartington College of Arts, something happened that would change his life. After attending a cybernetics lecture given by Adam Montandon, a student at Plymouth University, the pair quickly become friends and set to work on what became known as the eyeborg project.

What they developed consists of a camera, mounted on Harbisson’s head, that picks up colors and converts them into sound waves.

By memorizing the different frequencies, Harbisson became the first person in history to hear colors.

The eyeborg was further developed by Peter Kese, a Slovenian software developer. This further development allows Harbisson to perceive three hundred and sixty color hues through varying frequencies. Not only that by adjusting the volume levels accordingly he can also measure color saturation.

Aside from giving him the ability to hear color, the eyeborg has also allowed Harbisson to experiment with painting in new ways. Below is a painting of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, translated by Harbisson.

bachs toccata and fugue in d minor Worlds First Official Cyborg Hears Colors

Bachs Toccata And Fugue In D Minor

But Harbisson’s story doesn’t end there. When Harbisson came to renew his passport, he ran into trouble. British passport officials are notoriously strict about not letting any objects into passport photographs.

Not surprisingly, Harbisson’s passport application was originally rejected on the grounds that his prosthetic was in the picture. But after months of letters of support from doctors and educators – which argued that Harbisson’s prosthetic device was effectively a part of him – the officials finally allowed the eyeborg in the picture, unofficially labeling him the first Cyborg in history.


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