Artist and cyborg activist Neil Harbisson spoke at PSFK CONFERENCE 2013 about living life with extra senses, and his work with the Cyborg Foundation. Harbisson was born with a rare condition called achromatopsia, which meant he was only able to perceive the world in black and white. However roughly 10 years ago, he began to ‘see’ colors with the help of a prosthetic device which translates color into sound. The device, called an ‘eyeborg,’ rests on his forehead, and is comprised of a sensor which translates the light frequencies of color into sound frequencies which he hears via bone conduction; each color has its own frequency, allowing Harbisson to see a full spectrum of hues.
Soon, Harbisson will undergo a surgery to implant the device into his head; two screws will connect the device’s antenna and electronic chip, and a 3rd will allow sound to pass through his skull. Harbisson will still have to charge the device through a USB port in his neck, but he hopes to one day be able to use his own blood circulation to power the device. As the device becomes more integrated with his body and sense perception, he moves closer to becoming a true cyborg.
Known readily in the science fiction world, cyborgs are beings that have both biological and mechanical parts. Although Harbisson isn't technically the first ‘cyborg,’ his work extends the boundaries of its definition, and raises the question of how far can we use technology to enhance our lives. As he says, becoming a cyborg is not turning ones self into a robot, but rather getting us closer to the levels of perception found in nature. By incorporating more elements of technology into our body, we may be able to awake new senses, and begin perceiving reality in an entirely different way.
Image Credit – Catalina Kulczar