Neil Harbisson is a British-Catalan cyborg artist, musician and performer best known for his self-extended ability to hear colors.
Neil was born with achromatopsia, a condition that only allows him to see in black and white. At the age of sixteen he started studying fine arts at Institut Alexandre Satorras (Mataró, Spain), where he was given special permission to use only black, white and gray colors in his works. Harbisson early works are all in black and white. Harbisson moved to Ireland in September 2001 to finish his piano studies at Dublin's Walton's New School of Music. In 2002 he moved to England to study Music Composition at Dartington College of Arts.
Neil has benefited from the interest of the cybernetics expert Adam Montandon in his condition, which resulted in the creation of the first eyeborg version Neil has used, back to 2004. This was the version Neil was using when, after a long struggle, he was accepted, for the first time in the world, as a cyborg by a government in that same year. That acceptance took place in the UK in the context of his passport renewal. The eyeborg works with a head mounted camera that picks up the colors directly in front of a person and converts them in real-time into sound waves. This device was improved in 2007 by the software developer Peter Kese, allowing Neil to perceive color saturation, as well as a higher number of color hues.
Neil uses the term sonochromatism or sonochromatopsia [sono-(Latin: sound) + chromat- (Greek: color) + -opsia (Greek: visual condition)] to define his new condition and he has been using his new sensory capabilities intensely. Color and the use of technology as an extension of the performer's body and senses are the central themes in his work.