Meet the man who can “feel colors” with his antenna

Artist Neil Harbisson explains the technology of his antenna
Updated 13 February 2018

Meet the man who can “feel colors” with his antenna

DUBAI: A self-proclaimed “cyborg” who says technology has helped him with his colorblindness has landed in Dubai to speak at the World Government Summit on Tuesday.

Born with a rare disease that only allows him to see in shades of gray, Neil Harbisson went ahead with a procedure that saw an antenna implanted into his skull that helps him see colors.

The antenna, which has a wireless camera connected to a wireless sound vibration implant in his skull, enables remote communication – as well as the transmission of images, sound or video.

The Catalan-raised British-born artist said the technology allows him to “feel and hear colors as audible vibrations inside his head” – and that includes the colors that cannot be seen by anyone through the naked eye.

The antenna “allows me to extend my perception of reality beyond the visual spectrum,” Harbisson explained.

“I can sense infrared and ultraviolet, and I also have an Internet connection in my head that allows me to receive colors from other parts of the world, or connect to satellite so I can send colors from space,” he said in an interview with UAE state-run news agency WAM at the World Government Summit.

His connection to the Internet also allows the reception of colors and images from all over the world. He has given permission to five friends across each continent to transmit colors, images, videos and sounds directly into his head via satellite.

Dubai’s World Government Summit has focused a lot of presentations on robotics and technology for the future.

And Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an honorary speech on Sunday that technology has the power to reduce poverty and bring about “inclusive growth for everyone.”

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Reminder: Your smartphone is likely tracking your location

Updated 21 August 2018

Reminder: Your smartphone is likely tracking your location

  • Most apps now use location tracking, and not just for obvious purposes like maps and transport
  • A study by Yale University found that three quarters of Android apps contained trackers — usually containing advertising

PARIS: A new lawsuit accusing Google of tracking people’s locations against their will has served as a reminder that every movement of most smartphone users is being recorded, often without their knowledge.
The California man who filed the suit claims that the tech behemoth continued to track the whereabouts of Android smartphone users even after they turned off “location history.”
But the history of geolocation and the privacy issues it raises are as old as the mobile phone itself.
Before smartphones arrived more than a decade ago, it was still possible to use geolocation. Mobile phones constantly connect to local antenna towers, and by triangulating the signals the user can be found — as Jeff Goldblum illustrated in the 1996 movie “Independence Day.”
However smartphones brought about a far simpler way to track people: GPS.
After the release of the first iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2007, GPS — Global Positioning System using satellites — became prevalent, and it is now included on all smartphones.
Most apps now use location tracking, and not just for obvious purposes like maps and transport. It’s also used for dating, food delivery and gaming, such as Pokemon Go, which became hugely if briefly popular across the world in 2016.
As the popularity of apps using geolocations grows, so does their money-making potential.
For example, when tourists use their phone to explore, they can be targeted with advertising not just from the country they are in but also the city and even the street they are standing on.
A 2014 study by CNIL, the French government’s techonology consumer protection body, showed that between a quarter to a third of apps had access to the phone’s location.
By 2017, a study by Yale University found that three quarters of Android apps contained trackers — usually containing advertising.
The CNIL study also found that some apps tracked the phone’s location more than a million times over a three-month period — accessing the information about once per minute.
The new Google lawsuit is far from the first time privacy concerns have been raised over geolocation. In 2011 fellow tech giant Apple faced a lawsuit over location tracking on its ubiquitous iPhones and iPads.
And there are also national security concerns.
Last month, researchers found that the fitness app Polar had revealed sensitive data on military and intelligence personnel from 69 countries. The app later disabled the function.
Just months before another health app, Strava, was found to have showed potentially sensitive information about US and allied forces around the world.
But the problem includes apps that don’t even need to track the users’ location.
Some simple flashlight apps have been discovered to have been secretly sharing location information.