Neil Harbisson has achromatopsia, a condition that prevents him from seeing color — for him, 50 shades of gray has an entirely different and far less erotic meaning. Distinguishing between traffic signal colors is a problem, but beyond the logistical and practical difficulties, Harbisson has always struggled with the aesthetic limitations of his condition. Just think of what it’s like for this guy to watch cartoons or fireworks! Knowing that the aesthetics of color have a huge impact on people with normal vision, about 10 years ago he decided to fix the problem by augmenting himself. That’s right — he became a cyborg.
Admittedly, he’s not a fully hybridized half-human/half-robot cyborg. His augmentation is fairly small — it’s a device called an “Eyeborg” that mounts onto his head. It allows him to see color and then some — the device also enables him to hear and feel color by converting colors into soundwaves. Harbisson experiences a device-induced form of synesthesia, or a blending of the senses, enabled by bone conduction, a process by which sounds travel to the base of his skull where a vibration mechanism then transmits them to his inner ears. The Eyeborg assigns a specific frequency to each color, with infrared being the lowest and ultraviolet light the highest.