Editor’s note: Julie Terry is marketing and special projects coordinator for the Research Triangle Park Foundation.

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Simply put, Neil Harbisson considers himself a cyborg.

In his panel Thursday afternoon at the Masonic Temple in Asheville, he explained to MoogFest audience members how being born with achromatopisa (a disease that allows him to see only in greyscale) in England drew him toward having an antenna surgically implanted into his skull.

Yes. He has an antenna – it resembles something that an insect might have – that a surgeon placed in his skull. It connects to his brain.

The antenna has the ability to register color and transfer the color into sounds. Through memorization, Harbisson has taught himself what different colors sound like. He has used these sounds to create contemporary visual art and music. (You can view an Instagram video of part of this explanation!)

For people born seeing color, Harbisson painted an excellent picture of the everyday places color lives that people don’t even consider, or notice. Walls were one example of this. He explained that until having the antenna implanted, he knew that walls could be blue or red.

What he did not know was that entire walls were covered in these colors.

“I thought it would just be one little corner, not the whole thing,” he said.

There were quite a few of these examples, all of which were pretty interesting and kind of wild to think about.

On viewing/hearing Andy Warhol’s, “Untitled” painting of Marilyn Monroe:

“Andy Warhol is very loud.”

On how food has changed for him:

“Going to the supermarket is like being in a nightclub.”

On traveling:

“I have some troubles with airport security. They ask a lot of questions and tell me what they’re wives favorite colors are.”

Harbisson’s explanations helped to rationalize something that is definitely a bit out there. Seeing color is a sense that most humans have. While it might not be deemed as essential to everyday life, it certainly adds richness to the world in which we live. His meshing of technology, science and health are enhancing his life for the better. This is the kind of innovation we’re always interested in learning about, and sharing, here at the Research Triangle Park. And, it’s this very enhancement that Harbisson seems to enjoy most about his new life as a cyborg.

“The bad thing about not seeing color isn’t not being able to see color. It’s that everyone else can see color. I was missing out on something social.”

(C) RTP Foundation