A peek into the colour coded world of Neil Harbisson
Born colour blind, Neil Harbisson at 21 co-divised and implanted the antenna, which converts colour frequencies to sound, in his skull
ACatalan-raised, British who is world’s first ‘cyborg’ artist, and has been breaking barriers in the tech world since 2004. Neil has never seen colour since birth and came from a grey-scaled world until he mastered his life on his own terms. He used to face trouble in every aspect of life, like traveling in metros where maps are coded in colour, flags of countries or the brands whose logos were entirely colour based. Resilient one, decided to not wear technology, but create a new organ for colour sensing. He chooses antenna to be his new sensory organ as it is independent from sight and hearing, also it supported the conversion of colour frequencies to sound, in his head.
“Each colour has its own vibration, this vibration can be felt inside the bones, and then it becomes sound to your inner ears, allowing you to hear the sound of colours,” shares the cyborg artist.
From last 14 years; he has been honoring this and crafting pieces of art, symphonies, and building his very own ‘Cyborg’ foundation in 2010 with his partner Moon Ribas. This organization aims to create, defend and promote the cyborg rights and cyborg art. The organization also let ordinary people a chance to design and create an organ they want to live with.
Identity As A Cyborg
Neil feels that he is a hybrid of transpecies and technology, which no longer makes him feel like a 100% human. He explores his identity through his artwork, human perception, and experiences the connection between sight and sound via sensory inputs.
Brain & Software In Unity
Antenna in his skull is the extension of his senses which works as an electronic eye. It senses the colour in front and converts it into sound vibration. It has been so long that now he memorises the sound of the colour and is continuously dreaming and sleeping in colour. He shares, “The use of software as an unlimited extension of our brain and senses aims for the cyborg effect. The moment when one stops noticing the difference between one’s self and the software, the moment when cybernetics and organism become one. For thousands of years, we’ve been changing the planet and designing it in order to make ourselves more comfortable, whereas if we start designing ourselves, things will change. The more we design ourselves, the less we will have to design the planet.”
Starting from the search of a doctor who would operate the brain and install the antenna precisely in his skull was a tedious fight. Also, when he was traveling to UK, the authority rejected his passport as his official image was showing him with the antenna. Further, to which he argued that the device is sensory organ and not a piece of technology and was ultimately honoured by the government.
Multiplying The Reach
His head also has an internet connection, which allows him to receive images or sounds directly into his skull from other parts of the world. Selected people – one from each continent can send images or sounds to his head by using their mobile phone cameras and microphone. This separation of his body and senses makes him feel as if he has an eye and ear in each continent. Sometimes he might be facing a boring brick wall yet be perceiving a beautiful sunset from a Australian eye. To this he says, “This is not VR (virtual reality) nor AR (augmented reality). This is RR, Revealed Reality: it’s when technology allows us to reveal a reality that already exists but that our traditional senses cannot perceive”