Belfast Telegraph

Colourblind artist wants cyborg eye in Irish passport

Neil Harbisson
Neil Harbisson

A colourblind artist from Barcelona is hoping Irish authorities will allow him to be photographed for his passport wearing an electronic eye.

Neil Harbisson, whose father is from Antrim, is fitted with a revolutionary electronic eye device which enables him to ‘hear’ colours, called an Eyeborg.

Neil already possesses a UK passport and is photographed in it wearing the device, despite rules which prevent holders from wearing electronic equipment.

He had to obtain special permission for it and won round the British authorities after his doctor said the new technology was helping him to “developing a new sense from this attachment”.

Neil, who was born with achromatopsia or complete congenital colour blindness, said: “Governments will have to get used to the fact citizens will stop using technology as a tool and start using it as a part of their body.”

The artist, who studied at Dartington College, realised the potential for assisting his condition when he attended a cybernetics lecture.

“I spoke to the guy who gave the lecture and asked if he thought we could create something so I could perceive colour so he wrote the software for Eyeborg.”

The pioneering Eyeborg transforms colour into different tones which it plays for Neil and is said to be even more efficient than the human eye, allowing him to ‘hear’ 360 colours, different hues and even infrared and ultraviolet lights.

The artist has now turned his new abilities into a career, making music on piano from the colours he perceives from people’s faces. He also transforms musical works into pictures.

Neil has founded the Cyborg Foundation because “this has completely changed my life” but says he gets emails from people saying it’s not human to become a cyborg.

“I always say it’s the opposite. Technology is made by humans so if we modify our body with human creations we become more human.”

For details of Neil's work, lectures and performances please visit

Video: Neil Harbisson - Discovery Channel 2007

Belfast Telegraph