My short bio: Hi Reddit! My name is Neil Harbisson. I am a contemporary artist, composer and cyborg activist, known for my ability to hear and perceive colours outside the ability of human vision. Ask me anything!

My Proof:

I'll also be speaking at the annual Moogfest in Asheville, NC next week.

Comments: 158 • Responses: 32  • Date: 

nd2037 karma

What does your antenna do, and why did you get it?

NeilHarbisson31 karma

The antenna allows me to hear colours, from infrareds to ultraviolets, directly into my skull. So I can sense the colours around me without using my eyes and without using my ears. The antenna also allows me to have bone conducted communication with other devices such as mobile phones: I could be in an office, yet receive the colours of a sunset directly into my head.

MilkArgument23 karma

But you don't see the sunset, right? You hear it and can imagine it because you have memorized the frequencies? So a red sunset sounds more reddy than a purple one?

NeilHarbisson30 karma

Yes, the image of the sunset is created by my brain not by the antenna. It's like dreaming it.

karmanaut27 karma

How do you get through airport security? How do the agents react?

NeilHarbisson31 karma

I have the antenna in my passport photo, so I show them the passport and tell them that the antenna is not an electronic device but a part of my body.

BitchImaKillYou23 karma

Can you describe a color that only you can hear?

NeilHarbisson45 karma

Infrared travels long distances, it's a mysterious color as it appears and disappears suddenly, it can be perceived from far away, it sounds deep and it's the only colour I can hear in total darkness.

infernoenigma22 karma

How long do you think it will be before cyborgs like yourself become mainstream? What other applications do you see for similar technology, aside from people who are color-blind? To put it another way, what other Eyeborgs can be developed aside from one that can "hear" color?

NeilHarbisson22 karma

The antenna is like having a third eye and a third ear. So the same system could be used for numerous other things such as bone conducted telephone calls, to hear music directly in your head without using your ears, and for skull to skull communication.

Fabrizio8914 karma

Skull to skull communication? Is that a thing already? Would you mind providing some research/article about this?


NeilHarbisson17 karma

Not just yet but whenever someone else decides to have an antenna implanted in the skull I'll be able to communicate with him or her by just sending and receiving images or sounds from my skull to his or her skull, and vice-versa.

Spot_the_Ball21 karma

Have you considered being a Pikmin for Halloween?

NeilHarbisson16 karma

hahah I will be one next Halloween.

tacogato17 karma

Hi Neil! I was wondering if you've ever tried experimenting with psychedelics or any mind altering substances to see how that affects your perception of color?

Also, I'm very excited to see you speak next week at Moogfest!

NeilHarbisson24 karma

Yes, it actually makes me hear more colours. See you at Moogfest!

BasketDroids15 karma

How does this impact your musical compositions?

NeilHarbisson24 karma

A lot. I've been living in a musical composition for the last ten years cause everything I look has sound. I now create music by looking at things. I create colour concerts.

ExaminedPear15 karma

how do you wash your hair? is the antenna waterproof or can you take it out?

NeilHarbisson19 karma

The antenna can be removed so I shower with it. It is waterproof but it is not submergible (yet).

animationanomaly14 karma

Hi Neil, we saw your work at the Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore a few weeks ago and found it (and your story) very interesting. Keep it up :)

Is it true you've you've been kicked out of cinemas because managers think you're trying to record the film with your sensor?

NeilHarbisson18 karma

Yes. Unfortunately some people think that I'm filming. In Venice they thought I was working for Google Street View.

leodown013 karma

are you okay going out in thunder storms with the antenna in your head and what does it do for you does it help you listen to music better ?

NeilHarbisson14 karma

I haven't been struck by lightning yet but maybe I could add a lightning rod to the antenna to be sure it never happens. The antenna allows me to hear the sound of colour so everything I look is music and depending on how I look at things I can create melodies. I find that hearing music directly into the skull is much more intense and profound.

LadyandaTramp12 karma

Do certain activities have different sounds? Like, if you were riding your bike would you hear differently than if you were walking? What does kissing sound like, or sex?

NeilHarbisson15 karma

Yes each activity has different sounds and each person too. So in the case of the sound of sex and kissing, this will depend on your partners' colours.

ThatGymRat12 karma

Are you a terminator?

NeilHarbisson27 karma

No. 20th century cyborgs are different from 21st century cyborgs. I think the union between humans and technology that we'll witness during the next few decades will be much more positive and natural than what the 20th century thought.

Nathanc312 karma

Was that you on the belgian TV show "scheire en de schepping"?

NeilHarbisson9 karma


GhostCheese12 karma

Is the antenna wired to your brain tissue? and if so, how long before the brain coats the interface and degrades the function?

Are the colors processed as sound or do you just use the term "hear" to simplify explanation?

What does a sunset sound like?

NeilHarbisson8 karma

No, the antenna is osseointegrated with the occipital bone, at the back of my skull. The brain has rewired itself due to the constant input of sound. Yes sound is the nearest definition to what I sense through my skull. It's a different type of sound, more like an inner thought, an inner sound. I will listen to Vivanco's works and let you know how they sound.

armacneill11 karma

What kind of Doctor would you have to go to to achieve something like this? And if you don't mind me asking how much fucking money did you pay dude? Seems like it would cost an arm and a leg.

NeilHarbisson11 karma

Surgery involving the union between cybernetics and humans are now seen as experimental. So most doctors will not accept to implant anything due to bioethical committees that don't see it right. But there are other doctors that are in favour of this and will do it anonymously. It took me almost 2 years to find one. It didn't cost me an arm and a leg, it cost me an antenna.

MilkArgument10 karma

Incredible. Do you have a favorite color frequency? Is it an uncomfortable or nice noise? Does it depend on the color?

NeilHarbisson24 karma

My favourite colour is infrared.

mf2129 karma


NeilHarbisson14 karma

My brain got used to it after 5 months. I guess each body might need different amount of time to adapt to a new sense. Yes, I would recommend it to anyone who wishes to extend their perception of reality.

SeedyROM229 karma

Are you going to stop at just the antenna or would you consider getting more implants?

NeilHarbisson15 karma

I think the addition of an infrared sensor at the back of my head to detect presence behind me is a very simple sense that can be interesting to add.

GhostCheese8 karma

How does one get into cyborg activism?

I'm interested in Transhumanism, but have trouble being motivated to actually do anything with it.

NeilHarbisson8 karma

Transhumanism is a huge tree with many different branches. Maybe you should first try to find out which area you're most interested in.

osmaaan8 karma

Don't you get tired of the continuous sounds that you hear - which are actually UV rays or the colors around you ?

NeilHarbisson9 karma

No, in the same way that most people are not tired of seeing colour continuously, my brain is used to hearing colour continuously too.

Max-powers-8 karma

What would you like to add next??

NeilHarbisson15 karma

I want to use my blood circulation to charge the antenna. I don't want to depend on external energy, I want to use my own body energy.

TTK577 karma


NeilHarbisson16 karma


midgarden7 karma

Just watched your TED talk, at first I was skeptical, and then completely on board. Just wanted to say that you're an inspiring, strange and wonderful cyborg. I hope all our future overlords dress so well!

NeilHarbisson3 karma

haha thanks!

swinglowproletariat6 karma

Hello, Neil!

Can you explain your experience in living with achromatopsia and how you came to integrate the technology to perceive colors audibly into an antennae form?

And could you describe the relationship of those two sensory experiences as you perceive them?

*edited for clarity.

NeilHarbisson6 karma

It all started in 2003 with Adam Montandon, first it was a webcam connected to a 5 kilo computer that I always carried in a backpack and a pair of head phones. Then I collaborated with other people to make it smaller until the moment it became small enough to have in implanted. There is the sensory experience of hearing color, and the sensory experience of having a new body part, the antenna. Feeling a new body part is to me a unique experience difficult to describe, if someone touches the antenna it feels like someone was touching my nose or my teeth.

MilkArgument6 karma

Why does your antena droop and dangle in front of your face instead of sticking straight out the back of your head pointing up?

NeilHarbisson12 karma

I looked at the anatomy of other animal species that have antennas and recreated a similar structure. One of the next stages is to be able to move the antenna in all directions without using my hands and independently.

LemonTeeth6 karma

Have you had to come up with new names for colours that aren't existent in the human spectrum?

NeilHarbisson13 karma

Yes, I'm actually creating a "Sound Palette" that should be finished in a few months. In has around 600 new colour names based on their sounds.

what_no_2 karma


NeilHarbisson5 karma

Each colour has a light frequency that relates to a specific note. These are the exact notes hat I hear but in an audible octave. Visual sounds come through my bone and audio sounds through my ears so they don't clash. Yes, to me some colours clash, but that depends on one's own taste. Yes, some of the new colour names are invisible to the human eye, but most of the ones in the palette are colours that most people can see but that haven't been named (colours are infinite). To most people colour is a visual interference between the object and the mind, to me it's a sound interference between the object and my mind.

Angel_Zpiritus2 karma

Hi, thanks for this. I wanted to ask, I hope I'm not being rude or anything. But I don't know of many cyborgs, are they like a lot out there?? Thanks again and cheers, I think it's cool you're a cyborg bro :D

NeilHarbisson7 karma

Thanks, I think that being a cyborg is a feeling. It is to feel that you are no longer using technology and that you are no longer wearing technology, it's to feel that you are technology. So it is difficult to tell how many people feel that they are technology in the same way that it is difficult to tell how many people feel like a woman.

MojoJagger2 karma

Can you explain how you perceive colors? Is it like an aura?

NeilHarbisson3 karma

Colour is to me a fast moving energy that moves from place to place and that I can now hear.

[deleted]1 karma


NeilHarbisson7 karma

I never really wanted to be a cyborg, I became one. One day I woke up and I stopped feeling the difference between my brain and the software. Being a cyborg is feeling that you are technology and this is how I feel. My body and cybernetics have merge both mentally and physically.