Saturday, June 5, 2010

Meet Neil, The Real-Life Cyborg Who's Not Programmed to Terminate You

Many of you have heard of the term, "cyborg," from the Terminator series.  Specifically, when Ahh-nold says, "Ah m a cybernetic organeesm; ah macheene weeth leeving teeshoo ouver my metol exoschkeleton." 

Well, if his strong Austrian accent left you lost in translation, a cyborg is simply an organism that has both natural and artificial systems.


Neil Harbisson (pictured above) has achromatopsia, a syndrome that has links to five separate diseases but for Harbisson it means that he can only see in black and white. You'll notice in his photo however, that he's wearing a camera mounted to his head. This converts colors into soundwaves- which literally allows him to "hear" colors. 

In his second year at the Darlington School of Arts in the UK, he attended a cybernetics lecture given by Adam Montandon, a student at Plymouth University.  After introducing himself to Montandon and explaining his condition the pair started to work on what became known as the eyeborg project.

What they came up with was the camera you see on his head, it picks up colors and converts them into sound waves.  By memorizing the different frequencies, Harbisson became the first person in history with the ability to hear colors.

The eyeborg was finetuned by Peter Kese, a Slovenian software developer.  This further development meant that Harbisson can now perceive 360 color hues through varying frequencies.  What's more?  Adjustments in volume allow him to measure color saturation.

Considering he's an artist, studying fine arts at school, being able to see color has helped him immensely—with the painting below being his interpretation of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, taking the soundwaves he hears from the music, and converting it into color.


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