10 Bizarre, Vision-Enhancing Technologies From the Last 1,000 Years

Before Oculus Rift, there were lorgnettes, TV glasses and eyborgs

smithsonian.com

The current boom in wearable and immersive technology will forever alter how we see and interact with the world. From Oculus headsets that jettison us through time and space, and FOVE eye-tracking technology that uses subtle movements to control virtual reality environments, to conceptual designs for contact lenses with cameras that trigger when a wearer blinks, our augmented vision is stretching our conception of reality. Yet the desire to manipulate, correct or extend what we see is not an exclusively 21st century urge—it has fueled ingenious, and at times wildly eccentric, innovations for centuries.

Cyborgs and Eyeborgs

Catalan cyborg and artist Neil Harbisson was diagnosed with achromatopsia when he was child, meaning he sees in black and white. In collaboration with cybernetics expert Adam Montandon, he developed his first eyeborg in 2003 when he was a student at England's Dartington College of Arts. The device is now permanently embedded into Harbisson’s skull and allows him to “hear” colors.  A screen suspended in front of his eyes detects light waves and then converts them into sound frequencies. However, the resultant frequencies are not heard, rather they are conducted through his bone and Harbisson experiences them as vibrations, which he then translates into vividly colored artworks and sound portraits.

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