Neil Harbisson was born with achromatopsia, a rare condition that causes complete color blindness. He truly sees the world in black and white, and says that, as a child, he doubted the existence of color but memorized that the sky is blue and the grass is green. In 2004, along with Adam Montandon, Harbisson developed the eyeborg, a device that translates colors into sounds.
Wearing this device on his head at all times, Harbisson has been claimed to be the first recognized cyborg in the world, as his passport photo now includes his device.
After feeling the joy this gave him, talking to others and finding out there were many others out there with physical limitations looking for similar ways to improve their lives. So, in 2010, Harbisson and Moon Ribas created the Cyborg Foundation, an international organization which will “help humans become cyborgs.” In addition to the eyeborg, the foundation is experimenting with other sensory devices, including an “earborg,” which translates sound into color, and a “speedborg,” which allows people to detect movement through electronic earrings that vibrate.
The short film Cyborg Foundation by Rafael Duran Torrent, telling the story of Harbisson and his human cyborg transformation quest, was recently announced as the Grand Jury Prize Winner in the GE/Focus Forward Filmmaker Competition. The jury convened at a special ceremony at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival to determine the winners, out of submissions from 69 countries, with topics spanning robotics to energy to philosophy and beyond. As the winner, the filmmakers behind Cyborg Foundation will receive a $100,000 prize, and four other films — including second place winner, The Artificial Leaf, which we wrote about not too long ago — will also receive substantial cash prizes. Competitions like this have enormous potential to change the lives of up-and-coming filmmakers, giving them not only the money they need to keep producing interesting work, but also the attention and acknowledgement that can propel their careers forward.
Credits, Cyborg Foundation:
Directed & Produced & Edited by: Rafel Duran Torrent
Image & Sound: Filma-T Produccions (Anna Moradell & Joan Figueras)
Video Effects: Rafel Duran Torrent, Harald Donner
Music: Neil Harbisson
Lighting: X So (Xavi Fusté & Miquel Gasol)
Cyborg Foundation: Neil Harbisson & Moon Ribas
Sound Postproduction: Jens Erdmann
Footage provided by: El Xip Multicolor
Pictures used with permission of Campus Party Mexico and Christopher Jones
Special thanks to: Roger Soldevila, Palau de la Música Catalana, Mercat de la Boqueria, Arts Santa Mònica, Come&See Catalan Performing Arts Market, Supermercats Caprabo, Gabrielle Wessling
When you have a few extra moments, all the films who made it into the final round are worth checking out.