Neil Harbisson identifies himself as a Trans-species. Unable to see colours, he decided to acquire an additional sense that would let him perceive them!

Neil grew up with color-blindness and tried to avoid colours when he was young. Even though it had its advantages like better night and distance vision, it wasn’t easy. He decided to get an antenna implant to extend his senses which would help him perceive colors through audio.

There were raised eyebrows and Neil even had to present his case before a Bio-ethical Committee to get permission for a surgery. They said no. This was a daunting task as people didn’t receive this notion warmly. Headstrong, Neil kept searching and found the team he needed.


The implant was a success with the brain accepting the new sense and the body accepting the new organ. Neil had to learn and memorize different colors and sounds, and after 3 years of getting used to the new organ, he can perceive 360 hues. But this was not the end. In 2010, he extended his senses and is now able to perceive in the infrared and ultraviolet ranges as well!

Neil turns heads in public, because of his visible antenna which led him to conduct a social project where he interacts with strangers and creates awareness. The antenna has often been mistaken for a Bluetooth microphone, some gadget similar to Google Glass and even an extended mini selfie stick!

With his new organ and senses, Neil has a different way of looking at and processing things. All color has corresponding sounds, so he both looks at and listens to art! Everyday tasks that are redundant and boring for us, are fun for him. He goes shopping and listens to the colors of the vegetables. He designed the interior of his house using this new sense, so that he is always alert in the high-pitched violet kitchen and can relax thanks to the low-pitch red floors. His sense of dressing is also affected as he matches colors based on how they sound.

He does peoples’ face profiles and says, “I’ll send you an mp3 of your face.”


He plans to advance the use of the Internet from it being just a communication tool, to an actual sensory medium. With more people becoming trans species in the future, there would be a way to connect with each other via a sensor heavy satellite that would be dedicated for this purpose.

His next organ is going to allow sensory perception of time. He wants a head band that would let him know the time of the day, and when he is used to the organ, he wants to control the sense and be able to slow down or speed up his perception of time. He would like to feel like 150 years old at just 80 years. Just like we are familiar with optical illusions, he would like an illusion of time.

The Trans-species are still excluded from society and there is need for awareness and open-mindedness. This is something Neil is actively trying to work on.

He calls us to stop trying to change the planet, and instead, change ourselves! We have the power and should design ourselves to improve ourselves.

Photo: Susanna Otakari