Along with my fave tech and design blogs, I’ve woefully neglected TED talks while otherwise employed this last year and a half. As I scrolled through my app today, several caught my eye, but Neil Harbisson drew me in completely.
Harbisson was born completely color-blind – a difference in perception that I find fascinating. After years of working with developers, Harbisson became a cyborg – wearing a digital eye on his head that attaches to a chip near his skull. This device allows him to “see” color – by hearing it.
Colors in front of the digital eye are translated into pitches or tones by the device. Using this, Harbisson not only translates daily life, but creates audio portraits of faces. A side effect is that regular sounds are also now identified by his brain with the colors they match in pitch, so that music and voices are rich with color for him now, as well. He creates geometric, color rich paintings of these sounds, while he also “listens” to Picasso. The sound of color and the color of sound effect his approach to even the everyday
If I had to go to a funeral, though, I would dress in B-minor (turquoise, purple, orange).
Now, I can eat my favorite song.
I found Harbisson’s perspective refreshing and full of the wonder of new explorations. He has started the “Cyborg Foundation” – to work on ways to extend our senses via technology. I’m not sure what I would want to enhance. I think seeing sound might be cool. Or something that would be able to warn me if a pickle was hidden in a sandwich.
I can envision a counter-movement, however. Just as there are some in the deaf community would disapprove of and protest implants that allow others to regain their hearing. Is it too artificial? Playing with what God gave us? Taking our unique view of the world and conforming? IMHO, Harbisson demonstrates that conformity is hardly the path he is following. So long as these extensions stay individualized and aren’t as accessible as contacts, they seem to simply open a new world. To me, anyway.
What senses would you enhance, or extend, if you could? Do you feel that any “fall short” for you, as with color-blindness or poor hearing, that you may want to augment in a different fashion? Or do you fall in the “don’t mess” camp? I’d love to hear your thoughts.