The color came into the life of Neil Harbisson through sounds, as an innovative microchip implanted in his skull now allows the 31 year-old artist from Britain, who was born color blind, to “hear” colors. “You could say that I’m the world’s first cyborg,” says Harbisson, who in order to combat his color blindness wore from 2004 an external antenna, which translated the colors into sounds and served as an “external eye” device, which now was placed inside his skull.
In 2002 he attended a lecture by Adam Montandon, neuroscientist at the University of Dartington, who offered to build a special device for him in order to find a solution to the problem. “Life was black and white for me,” says Harbisson, remembering how the “external eye” changed his perspective of life. Now it affects him even more, as it is an essential part of his body. The scientific team that worked on the project explained that the microchip, equipped with cutting-edge software, converts light waves into sound waves and then “sends” them to Harbisson through vibrations, which he can feel in his bones. Each color is translated into a different vibration: red, for example, has the lowest frequency, and purple has the highest, so in the beginning the 31 year-old artist had to memorize each of them.
“At first I had terrible headaches, due to the constant influx of sounds, but after one month I got used to it. Now not only the reality but also my dreams are colored,” says Harbisson. Moving a step further, the scientific team has added wifi connection to the microchip, which now allows the British artist to “listen to the colored images he receives on his smart devices, without even looking at them.”