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  • Well, I was born with a rare visual condition

  • called achromatopsia, which is total color blindness,

  • so I've never seen color,

  • and I don't know what color looks like,

  • because I come from a grayscale world.

  • To me, the sky is always gray,

  • flowers are always gray,

  • and television is still in black and white.

  • But, since the age of 21,

  • instead of seeing color, I can hear color.

  • In 2003, I started a project

  • with computer scientist Adam Montandon,

  • and the result, with further collaborations

  • with Peter Kese from Slovenia

  • and Matias Lizana from Barcelona,

  • is this electronic eye.

  • It's a color sensor that detects

  • the color frequency in front of me — (Frequency sounds) —

  • and sends this frequency to a chip installed

  • at the back of my head, and I hear the color in front of me

  • through the bone, through bone conduction.

  • (Frequency sounds) So, for example, if I have, like

  • This is the sound of purple. (Frequency sounds)

  • For example, this is the sound of grass. (Frequency sounds)

  • This is red, like TED. (Frequency sounds)

  • This is the sound of a dirty sock. (Laughter)

  • Which is like yellow, this one.

  • So I've been hearing color all the time for eight years,

  • since 2004, so I find it completely normal now

  • to hear color all the time.

  • At the start, though, I had to memorize the names you give

  • for each color, so I had to memorize the notes,

  • but after some time, all this information

  • became a perception.

  • I didn't have to think about the notes.

  • And after some time, this perception became a feeling.

  • I started to have favorite colors,

  • and I started to dream in colors.

  • So, when I started to dream in color is when I felt

  • that the software and my brain had united,

  • because in my dreams, it was my brain creating

  • electronic sounds. It wasn't the software,

  • so that's when I started to feel like a cyborg.

  • It's when I started to feel that the cybernetic device

  • was no longer a device.

  • It had become a part of my body,

  • an extension of my senses,

  • and after some time, it even became a part

  • of my official image.

  • This is my passport from 2004.

  • You're not allowed to appear on U.K. passports

  • with electronic equipment, but I insisted

  • to the passport office that what they were seeing

  • was actually a new part of my body,

  • an extension of my brain, and they finally accepted me

  • to appear with the passport photo.

  • So, life has changed dramatically since I hear color,

  • because color is almost everywhere,

  • so the biggest change for example is

  • going to an art gallery, I can listen to a Picasso,

  • for example. So it's like I'm going to a concert hall,

  • because I can listen to the paintings.

  • And supermarkets, I find this is very shocking,

  • it's very, very attractive to walk along a supermarket.

  • It's like going to a nightclub.

  • It's full of different melodies. (Laughter) Yeah.

  • Especially the aisle with cleaning products.

  • It's just fabulous. (Laughter)

  • Also, the way I dress has changed.

  • Before, I used to dress in a way that it looked good.

  • Now I dress in a way that it sounds good. (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • So today I'm dressed in C major,

  • so it's quite a happy chord. (Laughter)

  • If I had to go to a funeral, though,

  • I would dress in B minor, which would be

  • turquoise, purple and orange. (Laughter)

  • Also, food, the way I look at food has changed,

  • because now I can display the food on a plate,

  • so I can eat my favorite song. (Laughter)

  • So depending on how I display it,

  • I can hear and I can compose music with food.

  • So imagine a restaurant where we can have, like,

  • Lady Gaga salads as starters. (Laughter) I mean,

  • this would get teenagers to eat their vegetables, probably.

  • And also, some Rachmaninov piano concertos

  • as main dishes, and some Bjork or Madonna desserts,

  • that would be a very exciting restaurant

  • where you can actually eat songs.

  • Also, the way I perceive beauty has changed,

  • because when I look at someone, I hear their face,

  • so someone might look very beautiful but sound terrible.

  • (Laughter) And it might happen the opposite,

  • the other way around. So I really enjoy creating, like,

  • sound portraits of people.

  • Instead of drawing someone's face, like drawing the shape,

  • I point at them with the eye and I write down

  • the different notes I hear, and then I create sound portraits.

  • Here's some faces.

  • (Musical chords)

  • Yeah, Nicole Kidman sounds good. (Laughter)

  • Some people, I would never relate, but they sound similar.

  • Prince Charles has some similarities with Nicole Kidman.

  • They have similar sound of eyes.

  • So you relate people that you wouldn't relate,

  • and you can actually also create concerts

  • by looking at the audience faces.

  • So I connect the eye, and then I play the audience's faces.

  • The good thing about this is,

  • if the concert doesn't sound good, it's their fault.

  • It's not my fault, because — (Laughter)

  • And so another thing that happens is that

  • I started having this secondary effect

  • that normal sounds started to become color.

  • I heard a telephone tone, and it felt green

  • because it sounded just like the color green.

  • The BBC beeps, they sound turquoise,

  • and listening to Mozart became a yellow experience,

  • so I started to paint music and paint people's voices,

  • because people's voices have frequencies

  • that I relate to color.

  • And here's some music translated into color.

  • For example, Mozart, "Queen of the Night," looks like this.

  • (Music) Very yellow and very colorful,

  • because there's many different frequencies.

  • (Music)

  • And this is a completely different song.

  • (Music) It's Justin Bieber's "Baby." (Laughter)

  • (Music)

  • It is very pink and very yellow.

  • So, also voices, I can transform speeches into color,

  • for example, these are two very well-known speeches.

  • One of them is Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream,"

  • and the other one is Hitler.

  • And I like to exhibit these paintings in the exhibition halls

  • without labels, and then I ask people,

  • "Which one do you prefer?"

  • And most people change their preference

  • when I tell them that the one on the left is Hitler

  • and the one on the right is Martin Luther King.

  • So I got to a point when I was able to perceive 360 colors,

  • just like human vision.

  • I was able to differentiate all the degrees of the color wheel.

  • But then, I just thought that

  • this human vision wasn't good enough.

  • There's many, many more colors around us

  • that we cannot perceive,

  • but that electronic eyes can perceive.

  • So I decided to continue extending my color senses,

  • and I added infrared and I added ultraviolet

  • to the color-to-sound scale, so now I can hear colors

  • that the human eye cannot perceive.

  • For example, perceiving infrared is good because you can

  • actually detect if there's movement detectors in a room.

  • I can hear if someone points at me with a remote control.

  • And the good thing about perceiving ultraviolet is that

  • you can hear if it's a good day or a bad day to sunbathe,

  • because ultraviolet is a dangerous color,

  • a color that can actually kill us, so I think we should all have this wish

  • to perceive things that we cannot perceive.

  • That's why, two years ago,

  • I created the Cyborg Foundation,

  • which is a foundation that tries to help people

  • become a cyborg, tries to encourage people

  • to extend their senses

  • by using technology as part of the body.

  • We should all think that knowledge comes from our senses,

  • so if we extend our senses,

  • we will consequently extend our knowledge.

  • I think life will be much more exciting

  • when we stop creating applications for mobile phones

  • and we start creating applications for our own body.

  • I think this will be a big, big change

  • that we will see during this century.

  • So I do encourage you all to think about which senses

  • you'd like to extend.

  • I would encourage you to become a cyborg.

  • You won't be alone. Thank you. (Applause)

  • (Applause)

Well, I was born with a rare visual condition

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A2 TED perceive laughter frequency sound hear

【TED】Neil Harbisson: I listen to color (Neil Harbisson: I listen to color)

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    VoiceTube posted on 2013/04/12
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