Embraced by the warm Florida air, I make my way to my car, the hum of air con motors my only company. I pull out of the parking space and make a winding exit onto Glades Road.A little less than ten minutes later I am turning off the headlights and grabbing a blanket from the back seat.
Slipping off my shoes I make a gentle descent towards the soft lapping sounds of the North Atlantic Ocean.Settling down onto the soft sand, I raise my gaze to the horizon and brace myself for the silent yet majestic spectacle about to take place before me: the rising of the sun.
Seeing a sunrise can be a magical thing. But can you imagine what a sunrise would sound like?
Neil Harbisson would answer yes to that question. Neil was born with Achromatopsia, an inability to see colour. As he says, “I come from a grayscale world, the sky is grey, flowers are grey and television is still in black and white.”
Yet with a microchip and an antenna Neil now has the ability to hear the frequencies of a myriad of colours, infrared included.
The way in which the device works is simple in its complexity. The antenna, or the electric eye as Neil calls it, senses the frequency emitted by a colour and sends the information to a chip implanted in the back of his skull where, via bone conduction, his mind is able to interpret through the frequency, what colour is being displayed.
He has had the use of the device since the age of 21, and after the first six months, Neil says he began to dream in colour. He now sees the antenna as an extension of him for that is what it feels like. Neil’s antenna is to him what an antenna is to an insect.
So if Neil were the one sitting on that North Atlantic shore can you imagine the experience he may have had?
Neil’s antenna and microchip have also been evolving. Via Bluetooth he is now connected to about 5 people via the internet. If I had been one of them, I could have sent him images of the sunrise for him to hear.
He is not the only one with such devices, his business partner Moon Ribas has the ability to feel earthquakes happening around the world in real time.
Her device is connected to seismographs via the internet. She receives this information as vibrations in different parts of her body. She has dubbed this as an extra sense and calls it her Seismic Sense.
As Moon and Neil show, all of these devices have become ways for the human being to extend the senses and become even more connected to the planet.
Their work continues to evolve. Together they formed the Cyborg Foundation where, through collaborations, “they encourage people to create their own sensory extension” (The Cyborg Foundation, 2015).
Check out their website: http://cyborgism.wix.com/cyborg
and also enjoy the talks they gave at TED.