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Meet the cyborgs: Five people who have modified their bodies with tech

A growing movement of people are modifying their bodies to enhance their senses, improve their health or extend their human abilities. Their goal is not just to use or wear technology, but to re-engineer their bodies with it.

Here, five people explain how their implants and body hacks affect the way they experience life.

Neil Harbisson

I can hear colours

Neil Harbisson demonstrates how his antenna allows him to hear colours.

  • Name: Neil Harbisson

  • Age: 35

  • Nationality: British/Catalan

  • Special ability: Hearing colours

Neil is an artist and cyborg activist who has an antenna implanted in his skull. Born with achromatopsia, Neil can only see in shades of grey, but the antenna allows him to hear colour. He can also sense invisible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum such as infrared and ultraviolet. Listen to the clip to hear what Neil hears.

The antenna’s internet connection allows Neil to receive colours from space as well as images, videos, music or phone calls directly into his head via external devices like mobile phones or satellites.

In 2010, Neil co-founded the Cyborg Foundation.

Moon Ribas

I can feel the earth move

Moon Ribas describes her implant which allows her to sense seismic activity.

  • Name: Moon Ribas

  • Age: 31

  • Nationality: Spanish

  • Special ability: Sensing earthquakes

Moon has an implant which allows her to sense seismic activity and feel earthquakes happening in real-time all around the world. She then translates this new sense on stage; in her main dance piece – Waiting for Earthquakes – she waits for an earthquake to take place and then moves according to the seismic intensity.

Moon Ribas co-founded the Cyborg Foundation with Neil Harbisson. The organisation aims to help people become cyborgs, defend cyborg rights and promote cyborgism as an artistic and social movement.

Frank Swain

I can hear Wi-Fi

Frank Swain's modified hearing aids allow him to hear the Wi-Fi around him.

  • Name: Frank Swain

  • Age: 34

  • Nationality: British

  • Special ability: Hearing Wi-Fi

Frank was diagnosed with early hearing loss when he was 25 and fitted with a hearing aid three years ago. Since then, he has worked with sound artist Daniel Jones on a project to turn the invisible Wi-Fi fields around him into a soundscape which is delivered through his hearing aids. Listen to the clip to hear what Frank hears.

Frank Swain presented Meet the Cyborgs and Hack My Hearing on BBC Radio 4.

Dana Lewis

I have an artificial pancreas

Dana Lewis explains how she developed her artificial pancreas.

  • Name: Dana Lewis

  • Age: 28

  • Nationality: US national

  • Special ability: Artificial pancreas

Dana has created an “artificial pancreas” to help manage her Type 1 Diabetes. Frustrated by the limitations of the medical devices on offer to measure and control her blood sugar levels, Dana decided to take matters into her own hands. She and her husband Scott modified her glucose monitor and insulin pump to create a “closed loop” system. It predicts what her blood sugar level will be hours into the future and automatically measures out the correct dose of insulin.

The couple have released the source code online at and the medical industry is currently developing new devices based on their prototypes.

Scott Cohen

I'm a human compass

Scott Cohen demonstrates how his North Sense device works.

  • Name: Scott Cohen

  • Age: 51

  • Nationality: US national

  • Special ability: Sensing magnetic north

Scott started his career in the music industry in the 1990s. He was fascinated by the way the internet might transform how we experience and share music. Then he decided to transform himself.

Scott and his business partner Liviu Babitz have developed a new commercial cybernetic device called The North Sense. Consisting of a microchip, attached to piercings in the skin, it is programmed to vibrate every time it faces magnetic north.

You can hear more from these cyborg pioneers in Frank Swain's Radio 4 programme, Meet the Cyborgs.

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