Colourblind Artist Surgically Implants an Eyeborg to See Through Sound

By Chris Mills on at

Colourblind artist Neil Harbisson has used a head-mounted sensor to convert colours to sound for a few years, but now he's persuaded a surgical team to take his 'eyeborg' one step further.

Harbisson can only see in black and white (a condition called achromatopsia), so for almost a decade he's worn a device that uses a single sensor to turn the colour immediately in front of him into sound. This has been becoming progressively more a part of his life, to the point that it even appears in his British passport photo. Not content with wearing it though, he's decided to go the whole hog and have it implanted into his skull. Jennifer Lee, writing for the New York Times, says:

Mr. Harbisson's current eyeborg is pressed against the base of his head with extremely high pressure, which allows the sounds to reverberate along his skull to his eardrums. But his new eyeborg, to be implanted in September, will be connected to his body through three screws in his head -- two to support the antenna and electronic chip, and a third for the sound to be passed into his skull, which will vibrate with the sound. He expects it will take about two months for the bone to heal around the implant.

Unsurprisingly, it took him a while to find a surgical team good/mad/crazy enough to attempt the implant -- most hospitals he approached thought he was joking -- but after long talks with the bioethical team, he managed to persuade doctors at the Trias i Pujol hospital outside Barcelona to go through with it. He's hoping that the procedure will pave the way for greater acceptance of cybernetics; I'm just hoping it doesn't go wrong and turn into some kind of Rise of the Machines-style strangling device. [New York Times via io9]

Image credit: Flickr via Elespectador