Color-blind Musician Hears Colors

May 3, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. implant /ɪmˈplænt/ (v.) – to insert something
Example: The surgeon implanted the artificial heart in the patient.

2. complex /kəmˈplɛks/ (adj.) – referring to something that has many different parts
Example: After long hours of computation, the student finally answered the complex math problem.

3. protrude /proʊˈtrud, prə-/ (v.) – to extend or stick out
Example: A pen protrudes from the man’s pocket.

4. conduction /kənˈdʌkʃən/ (n.) – the state in which energy or sound waves travel through an object
Example: The metallic rod immersed in boiling water immediately became hot because of conduction.

5. correspond /ˌkɔrəˈspɒnd, ˌkɒr-/ (v.) – to become closely similar or to match with something
Example: Each symbol in the periodic table corresponds to an element.


Read the text below.
A British-Spanish color-blind artist had a device implanted into his skull so he can hear and identify colors.

Neil Harbisson [neel HAR-bees n], a 31-year old London-based musician and contemporary artist, was born with achromatopsia [ey-kroh-muh-TOP-see-uh], an eye condition that limits the eyes’ color vision only to shades of black and white.

With the help of cybernetics expert Adam Montandon, Harbisson conceptualized the “eyeborg,” an electronic device that can translate colors into sounds. After using the device for the past 10 years, Harbisson decided to implant the device into his skull to pick up more complex colors.

Eyeborg includes a camera at one end and an audio device on the other. The camera, which protrudes in front of Harbisson’s forehead, detects the color’s frequency. Then, a computer chip connected to the audio device at the back of his skull converts this frequency into sound waves. The sound arrives at his auditory system through bone conduction. He can easily distinguish one color from another because each frequency has its own unique sound equivalent.

According to Harbisson, using the device was difficult in the beginning. He had to memorize the names of each color and the sound it corresponds to. But through time, the whole process became automatic to him that he no longer had to think about the sound equivalents anymore.

Since this device has a Wi-Fi connector, Harbisson can also listen to colors sent from mobile phones.

Mariana Viada, the project spokesperson, also says that skull to skull communication among eyeborg users is also possible. However, this possibility still has to be tested as Harbisson is the only one who has the implant at the moment.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         What do you think about this invention? Please explain your answer.
·         Would you enjoy a world without colors? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         What can be the negative effects of implanting devices into a human’s body?
·         Would you ever consider implanting a device into your body? Why or why not?


May 3, 2014