Artist's Cyborg Implant Translates Color into Sound

Image copyright Neil Harbisson

 In 2004, in response to his achromatopsia, a rare condition that only allows him to see in black and white, artist Neil Harbisson developed the eyeborg, a device mounted on his body that allows him to effectively “see” color by translating color into sound. The eyeborg features a head-mounted antenna that picks up colors and translates them into corresponding sound frequencies based on the wavelengths of the light.

In the eight years since first creating the device, Harbisson has worn his eyeborg constantly (his official ID even features a picture of him wearing it). And last month at TEDGlobal he announced he's ready to take the next step.
 
While the current eyeborg can be made from readily available electronics, as shown on one of Harbisson's Web sites, eyeb.org, Harbisson wants the new version to be a full-on medical implant. The implant version of the eyeborg, which he plans to have installed in September, will be attached directly to Harbisson's skull and send sound cues to him by passing vibrations into his cranium.
 
Using the current incarnation of the device Harbisson has already created several art series including a series called City Colours in which he depicts major European cities by their colors and Sound Portraits, in which he uses the color of faces to express them as microtonal chords.
 
While the device is not commercially available, Harbisson distributes plans for building the eyeborg via his Web site with the hope that it will inspire other disabled individuals to enhance the way they see the world. 
 
See below for a 2004 video of Harbisson discussing the eyeborg and creating his art.
 
-Chris Wiltz is the Assistant Editor of MD+DI