by Ariadna Zierold
Technology will increasingly be integrated into the body “to extend our abilities, our knowledge and our perceptions of reality”, according to Barcelona-based Neil Harbisson, who wears a head-mounted antenna attached to a chip at the back of his skull that allows him to perceive colours. “I think this will be much more common in the next few years.”
Harbisson wears the “eyeborg” headset to overcome a visual impairment called achromatopsia, which means he sees the world in shades of grey. The eyeborg turns colours into sounds, allowing him to “hear” them and meaning he qualifies as a cyborg, or cybernetic organism (a living being with both natural and artificial parts).
The sounds are transmitted through the bone to his inner ear, which allows him to interpret what colours are according to the different sign waves of each sound.
After a long battle with the UK authorities, Harbisson’s passport now carries a photo of him wearing his eyeborg, making him the world’s first government-recognised cyborg.
In 2010, Harbisson founded the Cyborg Foundation, an organization whose mission statement is to “help humans become cyborgs, to promote the use of cybernetics as part of the human body and to defend cyborg rights [whilst] encouraging people to create their own sensory extensions”.
He has created a series of artworks using his eyeborg, creating sound portraits by scanning people’s faces for different hues and turning the tones into short musical compositions.
Harbisson believes that recent technological advances mean there will be a rapid growth in the number of people with cybernetic implants that give them enhanced abilities. This in turn will change what it means to be human.