In childhood Neil Harbisson was diagnosed with a condition called achromatopsia, which means he can only see the world in black and white. Despite this fact, Neil went on to pursue a fine art degree at the Institut Alexandre Satorras, where he was given permission to use only black, white and their intermediate shades in his work.
In Neil’s second year at school he attended a lecture that wound up being a life changing experience. At a cybernetics lecture given by Adam Montandon, Neil introduced himself to Montandon and after explaining his condition the pair started to work on what became known as the eyeborg project.
The eyeborg is a camera, mounted on Harbisson’s head that examines colors he is viewing then emits a noise to an earpiece converting the color in to a sound wave. By memorising the different frequencies Harbisson became the first person in history with the ability to hear colors. Further development of the eyeborg by software developer Peter Kese has meant that Harbisson can now perceive three hundred and sixty color hues through varying frequencies. Not only that, but he can also measure color saturation by adjusting the volume levels of the devise.
Neil’s ability to translate sound in to color through the eyeborg has allowed him to experiment with color in his artwork. In a series of painting released in 2004 Harbisson took sound waves from famous pieces of classical music and painted their corresponding visual color representation. Below is his take on Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.3.
Neil is also the first legal cyborg. When Neil applied for his passport to be renewed the application was originally rejected because the eyeborg was visible in his passport picture. The appeal to get the application reviewed, and ultimate acceptance, made
Harbisson the first officially recognized cyborg in history.