Could you imagine life without seeing color? Even those with the most common forms of colorblindness can see at least some color. But for artist Neil Harbisson, a rare condition known as achromatopsia renders him completely colorblind.
Neil lived without being able to perceive blue skies or green grass until he met a computer scientist named Adam Montandon. In 2004, Adam and Neil developed the Eyeborg, a device that translates colors into sounds.
The Eyeborg device is comprised of a head-mounted camera and a laptop backpack that runs the system’s software. The system basically works by scanning your surroundings, identifying the spectrum of light around you, and then converting those light waves into sound.
For example, if the camera were to "see" the color red, the software would translate it into a low-pitched sound because red has the longest wavelength on the visible light spectrum. Meanwhile, the color purple would create a much higher-pitched sound to indicate its shorter wavelength. It seems a little like a simulated version of synesthesia.
The device allows Neil to hear the subtle difference between colors, too, just as there are countless different shades of the color purple (lavender, violet, and so on). On top of "hearing" different colors, Neil can also use the Eyeborg to "hear" kinds of electromagnetic radiation that are the human eye can't perceive, such as infrared and ultraviolet light.
Neil is one the of the world’s first medically recognized cyborgs, with senses enhanced by technology. According to Neil, he even perceives colors as sound in his dreams. Neil is also one of the co-founders of the Cyborg Foundation, an organization that continues to experiment with sensory devices, including the Earborg and the Speedborg, a pair of vibrating earrings that detect movement.
This story, "This man is a cyborg who can 'hear' colors" was originally published by TechHive.