The world's first cyborg artist

At the 2019 Design Indaba conference, artist Neil Harbisson, born with a rare form of color blindness, called achromatopsia, meaning he sees the world in shades of gray, spoke about his amazing invention. To fight his illness, he created an antenna that converts color into sound, and implanted it into hisskull.

At the conference, Harbisson explained to an intrigued audience how the antenna allows color recognition using a sensor that picks up light frequencies ahead of itself. This signal, through a chip in the back of his head, converts the color into sound waves that the artist hears through bone conduction.

Although some may see it as an extreme measure, Harbisson made it clear that his antenna is not a complement, but a very pleasant new part of his body. “I didn’t want to use technology, I wanted to merge with it,” he said. Neil is the first person in the world with an antenna implanted in his skull, and the first to be officially recognized by the government as a cyborg. Although, he admits that it took him a long time to convince the UK government to renew his passport.

Hearing colors means that Harbisson is able to read people's faces and create harmony out of them. And he has read many celebrities, including Robert De Niro and James Cameron, and has also translated various texts and speeches, including Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” into a beautiful work of art.


The speech of Martin Luther King "I have a dream" in the interpretation of Neil Harbisson

He also has a very interesting view on racial differences. "People who say they are black are actually very, very dark orange," he said. "And the people who say they are white are not white. They are actually very, very light orange. So there is neither black nor white, we are all orange."

Neil’s friend Moon Ribas, who has implanted special sensors in her legs that sense tectonic shifts, was at the conference too. Ribas is a dancer, and when she dances, these sensors turn the ground under her feet into a soundtrack. Every day there are hundreds of micro-shifts on the Earth's surface, and Ribas makes up her choreography based on them.


These cyborg friends believe that their artificial feelings are a means of expanding knowledge about the world, what they call the "revealed reality". Perhaps there are indeed more than 5 senses, and we still haven’t discovered them.

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