World’s First Cyborg Speaks Out


Neil Harbisson hears colors and advocates for cyborg rights.

Artist Neil Harbisson was born with achromatopsia, a rare condition meaning that he cannot see any color. In 2004, he teamed up with computer scientist Adam Montandon to make the eyeborg, a device which translates colors to sounds for Harbisson to hear. Harbisson is said to be the first recognized cyborg in the world, since his passport photo includes his eyeborg enhancement. The eyeborg currently identifies 360 colors, one for each degree on the color wheel, and Harbisson wears it 24 hours a day. Neil Harbisson, on being a cyborg, says that he realized he was when “One day I started hearing colors in my dreams. Then I understood what being a cyborg meant. It’s not the union between the eyeborg and my head, what converts me into a cyborg, but the union between the software and my brain. My body and the technology have united. It’s very, very human to modify one’s body with human creations.”

Neil Harbisson helped found The Cyborg Foundation in 2010 and stepped up in his role as a cyborg activist. The Cyborg Foundation aims to help people become cyborgs, defend cyborg rights, and promote the use of cybernetics in the arts. The Cyborg Foundation also provides support to sense development projects like those Harbisson and Montandon collaborated on. Other Cyborg Foundation works include the speedborg, which lets people detect movement through vibrations, and the earborg, which translates sound into color.

The short film about Neil Harbisson, CYBORG FOUNDATION, recently won the GE Focus Forward short film competition at the Sundance Film Festival.

Source: Cyborg Foundation

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