Human augmentation is often perceived as futuristic tech, but in reality, it is already available.
Today, it enhances or restores human productivity, depending on the situation, and improves the human experience through higher cognitive and physical abilities. It’s similar to robotic process automation, where tasks typically performed by humans are augmented or replaced by machines and code.
This technology offers capabilities that exceed normal human abilities like massive physical strength, turning invisible, or flying.
According to reports, the human augmentation market is expected to grow to US$206.9 billion by 2024 as businesses and engineers around the world explore new opportunities for the application of human augmentation.
Several of these applications that already seemed like science fiction are in action now. In this article, we offer 14 examples of human augmentation that play a massive role in improving our lives.
This is the first level of human augmentation that replicates an action a person can already perform. Prosthetics is a prevalent example in which a prosthetic arm or leg isn’t there to give a person some new ability that humans don’t have. Still, it replicates that pre-existing human function to help those who might be missing it previously.
Since replication isn’t offering any new abilities, it may seem insignificant, but it is highly essential. Think about it: replication gives a second chance to those who have congenital deficiencies or have been in a tragic accident and helps them in meeting daily challenges.
With more advancements in technology, we see prosthetics that are coming closer to the real thing, providing new opportunities to those who are in dire need of this technology.
Here are a few examples of replication:
Hearing loss continues to grow in individuals, and in 2019, the number of people with hearing impairment was estimated to be around 430 million. This number highlights the importance of cochlear implants that help people with hearing disabilities without making them wear an external device.
Cochlear was the first company to develop this device which helps you hear without any visual cues and recognize everyday sounds in your surroundings. It also lets you recognize the source of sounds and hear music, phone conversations, and videos.
This is a truly fantastic device as it provides mobility to those with amputated fingers through prosthetic fingers. It’s a game-changer for those who had restricted movements or actions previously due to their disability.
The device provides four-finger prostheses in artificial limb form: ThumbDriver, MCPDriver, GripLock Finger, and PIPDriver.
Even though this technology is still new, it comes with the potential to redefine our healthcare perception as it allows organic tissue creation with 3D printing techniques. These tissues include bones, skins, organs, etc. Artificial bones created via this process provide long-term healing.
For any sight issues like cataracts, artificial corneas are created to eliminate the need for human donors. Additionally, skin cells are printed for burn wounds and even a vascularized heart to aid with the donor’s fat tissue cells.
Similar to glasses, this wearable device helps legally blind people to see their surroundings. There are cameras in the front to provide near-eye quality visuals of the environment and present them on the screen that is right in front of the person wearing the device.
Additionally, there is a long-lasting software upgrade, TV Kit, electronic glasses, and customized lens inserts that come with the device.
Motionsavvy is a platform providing translations for sign language to speech and vice versa for deaf people. Although deaf employees use this at the moment, it has the potential to expand into smartphone apps so that anyone can use sign language to communicate.
Taking replication to another level, this second level of augmentation allows people to perform actions that are already doable but in an enhanced way. For instance, it allows us to jump higher, run faster, endure more, etc.
With the supplementation of our speed, strength, and endurance, we can enhance our performance and enjoy more opportunities.
Here are a few supplementation examples:
Neuralink, a venture by Elon Musk, is set to sync artificial intelligence with the human brain. The company has come up with a self-contained neural implant that can wirelessly transfer detailed brain activity without any external hardware.
The primary purpose of creating this device is to pave the way for human control over prosthetic limbs, computers, and more machines with their thoughts.
This device provides visual prostheses to the blind or those with retinal injury. Additionally, you can recreate an image with the simulation of electrodes when you use a camera in the visual cortex.
Another amazing scope of this device is its ability to predict future diseases and control mental illnesses.
These are out-of-the-body wearable devices that offer artificial endurance and strength to their users. For instance, the Sarcos Guardian is an industrial exoskeleton that enables a human worker to raise 200 pounds of objects or materials, control repetitive motions while preventing strain, and carry out heavy machinery operations.
Mixed reality Smart Glasses are the newest reality device, owing to the advancements in technology. With an immersive and comfortable reality experience, you get to enjoy the reliability, scalability, and security of Microsoft’s AI and cloud services.
With an enhanced field of view, you can instantly see holograms and move them naturally, similar to real objects. They also help with reading text and viewing the complex details of 3D images without any hassle.
It has a wireless headset with Wi-Fi that allows you to use it on the go. Some of its industrial and commercial uses include design collaboration, 3D computer-aided designs, virtual instruction, gaming, and employee training.
Translation tools like earbuds created by the Waverly Labs provide real-time translations of conversations, eliminating the need for learning foreign languages. You can use it in traveling, training or for efficient communication with its different modes.
The device uses an over-the-ear form factor which helps in solid antenna strength and hygienic sharing.
The last step of human augmentation involves exceeding normal human abilities. For instance, flying is an ability that extends beyond human capabilities.
Even though this augmentation sounds exciting, it needs a lot of development and highly advanced technology, which means that it’s still exceptionally far-off in the future.
Currently, most of the applications can be seen in exceptional cases, such as the military industry. This means that the applications of this augmentation are still possible in the near future.
Here are a few examples:
The creation of artificial blood cells is still under research where this technology is being used to develop platelet substitutes in animal testing.
This technology’s only practical clinical product is a saline solution used to maintain blood pressure and regenerate red blood cells.
The idea stems from mammals like dolphins who can hold their breath underwater for long periods, creating the assumption that their red cells can store oxygen better than ours, which can be recreated through technology.
These synthetic cells could come in handy, especially in medical emergencies, to save patients and help with blood transfusion complications such as infections or immune reactions.
As fictional as it may sound, nanobots have the potential for becoming a significant part of the medical industry. These are tiny robots ranging between 0.1 to 10 micrometers packed with particular functions.
With their tiny size, they can effectively carry a drug in the specific part of the body that needs it instead of traveling throughout the body. However, this Nano-technology allows efficient medication delivery and monitoring and reduction of side effects.
Doesn’t this object take you back to the Harry Potter world? We would love to get our hands on this technology even though it doesn’t exist yet. Researchers are working on it to make specific objects and surfaces invisible.
Like hard drives can retain their memory and access it with tremendous speed and accuracy, artificial memory chips called Optogenetics can replicate how a human brain behaves. This can make your brain highly efficient, so you can store, process, and delete information vital for computation.
With the help of light, this chip creates and alters memories, bridging the gap between humans and AI to mimic a human brain’s intricacies.
A very recent product of human augmentation is the turbine-powered hoverboard that offers unpredictable mobility. The device has a robust stabilization system with control, propulsion, and the ability to match the aviation safety protocols.
It provides efficient mobility in particular operations and can be used for leisure activities and airshows. Furthermore, it is very suitable for security purposes due to its fuel system, flexible opening boots, isolated turbines, and other special features to withstand flights in turbulent winds.
Witnessing the human desire to possess extraordinary capabilities, researchers and scientists aim to increase their research and work on human augmentation to boost human productivity.
With the advancements in technology and the human drive to strive for the extraordinary, it is safe to say that this is just the beginning of human augmentation. There are more fascinating creations waiting for us in the future, which are sure to bring our fantasies to life!
Ryan is the VP of Operations for DEV.co. He brings over a decade of experience in managing custom website and software development projects for clients small and large, managing internal and external teams on meeting and exceeding client expectations–delivering projects on-time and within budget requirements. Ryan is based in El Paso, Texas.