A source at Cascade spoke of their interest in such a rare and potentially life-altering condition, and like many, they had never heard of achromatopsia. In fact, type it into Microsoft Word and there is every chance that even the spell checker will not recognise the name. That is because achromatopsia affects only one person out of 30,000 – that’s a recurrence of 0.0033%.
Since being diagnosed, Neil Harbisson has endeavoured not to let his condition define his existence. At the age of sixteen he decided to study art, and when he told his tutor he could only see in basic monotones, the incredulous teacher replied: “Then what the hell are you doing here?” Neil explained that he wanted to understand what colour was, and that has become his mission in life.
“I was allowed to do the entire art course in greyscale,” Neil, now a well-known artist, told the BBC News website. “I did very figurative art - using only black and art – trying to reproduce what I could see so that people could compare how my vision was to what they themselves saw.” His artwork has since been exhibited in London, Vienna and Barcelona among others. “It’s pretty unique work,” said the managing director of Cascade, who was impressed by the artist’s take on modern art.
While in his second year at university Neil attended a lecture on cybernetics given by Adam Montandon, a student of Plymouth University. The pair soon started work on the ‘eyeborg’, a cybernetic peripheral device comprised of a webcam, a micro-processor and a headset, which translates colour into sound. Once completed, Neil would wear the eyeborg almost constantly, removing it only for repairs. “The eyeborg changed the way I perceive art. Now I have a completely new world where colour and sound are exactly the same thing.”
Cascade’s MD is one of many to be impressed by what Neil Harbisson has achieved. “This is modern technology at its best. I’ve even heard that the eyeborg allows Mr Harbisson to see into the infrared spectrum, which human eyes cannot see. It’s hard to believe all this came from a chance meeting at a university lecture."
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Newly formed in October 2011 to service a growing demand in the business development sector, Cascade offers a system of unique direct marketing solutions.