In 2004, Neil Harbisson, became the first person in the world to be fitted with an eyeborg, a head-mounted camera that picks up the colours in front of it and converts them in into sound waves. By memorizing the frequencies related to each colour, Harbisson can perceive up to 36 colours. (Reuters/Enrique Calvo)
Today, as we launch our season-long series By Design, we meet a man whose inability to register something most of us take for granted has inspired a new way to look at the world and our own bodies.
Neil Harbisson thinks the future of humanity lies in taking control of our own design: using technology to enhance ourselves. He has that antenna surgically implanted in his bones so he could experience colour. He was born with achromatopsia, a condition which affects about 1 in every 33,000 people and leaves them unable to see colours. So Neil Harbisson's camera records the colours and translates them into sounds.
Want to hear what Anna Maria sounds like to Neil Harbisson?
Here is Neil meeting Anna Maria in studio. What he does is note down the dominant colours in someone's face and then he makes an audio portrait from the notes that correspond to those colours.
Neil Harbisson can't turn off his new sense. Unless he goes somewhere that is completely dark, he is constantly bombarded with sound. And even in a dark room, he hears tones from near-infrared and near-ultraviolet light ... frequencies well beyond what we can see.
Below are paintings by Neil Harbisson correlating to what Neil sees when listening to the songs listed.;
Martin Luther King's speech, I Have a Dream
Mozart's, Queen of the Night Aria
Related links of interest
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This segment was produced by The Current's Gord Westmacott,