What is Human Augmentation? Will it become a megatrend in the future?
July 29, 2021
9 min read
Human Augmentation is also referred to as Human 2.0 because of Artificial Intelligence (AI) induction and technical mapping. Human Augmentation can be from building a simple prosthetic limb to a fully AI-controlled cyborg. Lately, technology has enabled us to augment human potential.
Human Augmentation is a research field that aims at enhancing Human ability with medicine and technology. In the past, chemicals in the form of medicines have proved to augment human capability. Augmented abilities can also be achieved by mechanical tools coupled with AI.
In this article, we will try to understand what Human Augmentation is? We will further see its scope and fields where it can be implied. Finally, we will try to answer if Human Augmentation is the next big thing? Will Human Augmentation become a megatrend in the future?
What is Human Augmentation?
The common definition of Human Augmentation limits technical enhancement in humans. It can be done by the use of medicines, AI, or technical mapping of the brain. It points out that adding something from an external source in humans will enhance their performance or intelligence.
In simple words, any device doing its primary function is not augmented like a watch. The primary function of a watch is to show time. But a smartwatch is augmented since it connects to mobile and performs additional functions. A tool is not augmented unless it becomes a part of the human experience. Devices like pacemakers, chip implants, prosthetics, and even eyeglasses become augmented by mere definition.
Human Augmentation aims to make something inherent from superficial. Prosthetics is a good example to understand this phenomenon. It replicates a limb and can function in a similar way performing tasks as desired. In this case, even though an external, prosthetic limb becomes an inherent device for human use.
Prospects of Human Augmentation.
It is a valid question if Human Augmentation is possible? If augmentation is limited to devices that enhance human ability, it’s great. The problem arises when AI is coupled with the human brain to enhance augmentation. The possibilities are questionable, but they cannot be denied.
More than the possibility, the question arises of ethics. The research conducted to date, particularly in medical science, indicates that the human brain can be enhanced and mapped. An advanced Human augmentation will use AI and Machine Learning to integrate hardware and software. As Human Augmentation technology will become more accessible, the debate will be common in all forums.
Complications in Human Augmentation.
The Human Augmentation in 2021 does have many benefits in medical and other fields. However, there are many glitches associated with it. The major issues associated with it are mainly social and ethical. When we analyze the future associated with human augmentation, it is unpredictable with inherent dangers.
Scientists and research analysts are not confident with augmentation technology in powerful tech concepts associated with nanotechnology and biotech. Many believe that the advancement needs to be monitored closely to understand its effects. Once it is assured that it will not alter the society norms, the tech concepts can be allowed.
The Human Augmentation model with VR, Augmented Reality (AR), AI, and perceptual interfaces have the capability of human alteration to the core. These actions may create superhumans, which may not be a good idea.
Types of Human Augmentation.
There are three categories of Human Augmentation.
- Replicating Human Augmentation.
Human Augmentation that rebuilds and replicates human capabilities falls under replication. It simply reproduces the human function that may have altered due to some reason or the other. Voice synthesizers, prosthetic limbs, and hearing ads are examples of replicating Human Augmentation.
Even though it may not be exciting, it is most relevant to humans. Replication helps people suffering from illness or those having a deformity due to an accident. The replication devices give not only physical enhancement but also psychological strength to users.
Future trends show replication can also mitigate the effect of aging; it will augment limbs and five senses. In research conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 37% of people between the age of 65 to 80 will be using replication devices by 2026. Augmentation will be used to eliminate the use of wheelchairs and walking sticks. With more people working beyond the age of 65, they will depend on Human Augmentation replication.
Examples of Replication.
People having deformities in their limbs can perform routine functions with prosthetics. A few companies have also created hand prosthetics for people with amputated fingers. It provides users with high levels of skill.
(b)Lift Ware Augmentation. This technology provides dining utensils for people who cannot eat with standard utensils. These utensils enhance the capability of older adults or people with tremors or limited mobility.
It is used for rehabilitation and industrial purposes; it is a typical body torso worn for endurance and artificial strength. It is helpful for construction, manufacturing, and physical therapy.
It is similar to glasses that give sight capability to clinically blind people. The device has cameras fitted which produce images on the front end of glasses and can be connected to the brain or eyes of the person wearing it.
These devices convert sign language into speech to let common people understand speech and hearing-impaired people. In the coming years, these will be expanded in the form of mobile apps.
It is the inclusion of AI with robotics to enable handicapped people to perform regular functions. They can be specialized for specific body functions or exoskeleton.
- Supplementing Human Ability.
Supplementation takes human augmentation one step further. It supplements human abilities like running, endurance, jumping, and other high-intensity tasks. It is made possible by AI and computing. Human Augmentations that supplement intellectual abilities with physical abilities could create a new revolution. If your five senses are supplemented with intellect and physical capability, it will redefine the human experience.
Human Supplementing Augmentations can be in the form of wearables or bionics (body modifications). Your smartwatches may also fall in the gambit of Human Augmentation Supplementation. We are entering into an era of Supplemental Augmentation where all these modifications and bionics will be common.
Examples of Supplementing Human Ability.
A Tesla Suit is a wearable ensemble that can control the temperature, wearer’s movement and provides tactile feedback. The technology is currently in the gambit of Virtual Reality (VR); however, it can be a reality in supplementing human ability in the future.
These glasses provide all the functions of a mobile to a wearer. It can guide GPS navigation, weather information, and even changes in your body. You can make a call, undertake video conferences and even record movements.
Neuralink is a project by Elon Musk targeting the creation of the Brain-Computer Interface. If this project is successful, computers will be able to interact with humans on a neural level.
Waverly Labs has created earbuds that can translate the real-time conversation. This technology eliminates a translator or the need to learn different languages. It has its limitations; in the future, it will have more languages and perfection in translation.
Robotics and AI get together to create surgical robots to perform highly skilled surgeries. The robot gives a surgeon an extra hand and precision in neurosurgery. The device also has inbuilt optics for extra-sensory information while working.
- Exceeding Human Augmentation.
The highest level of Human Augmentation is going beyond human abilities. It takes human abilities to new dimensions like flying or seeing through opaque objects. Exceeding Human Augmentation may be a fantasy or limited to sci-fi movies, but who knows, it might just be something the future has in store.
The major research and development in exceeding Human Augmentation are happening in the defense field and some specific industries. Going back fifty years, no one imagined what mobile devices could do. Similarly, the future might be in sync exceeding human capabilities.
Examples of Exceeding Human Augmentation.
It is a turbine-powered hoverboard. The driver stands on it like a surfboard and can lift it in the air with the help of controls. The device is under trials, developed by Zapata Flyboard Air. If successful, it will be soon launched in the commercial market.
It may not be a reality, but research is going to find technology to make objects invisible. Some research on human cloak suggests they are not far in developing the invisible technology.
(c)Artificial Blood Cells.
It may be hypothetical, but a possibility in the future. The concept of artificial blood cells evolved with mammals that can hold their breath underwater by storing oxygen. Artificial blood cells will increase endurance, stamina, and deep diving.
They have a huge potential of becoming real in the medical industry. Nanobots are microrobots that allow precise interaction with nano-objects. It can be deployed in the human body to perform functions to increase immunity. It can be a defense mechanism of the body to fight viruses and bacteria. It may have a significant role in cancer patient management.
(e)Synthetic Memory Chip.
A hard drive can store much more information than a human mind. The procession of information is also at a much greater speed. A Synthetic chip will be able to connect with brain neurons and store more information with enhanced capability. Sounds like fiction, but who knows about the future.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality (AR) can be termed as a technology that can overlay objects and information in the real world in real-time. It processes information from a real existing environment and then converts it into a new artificial environment. In VR, the user’s real-world is simulated by a virtual world; AR changes the user’s perception of their real-world environment.
Any system that uses these three functions can be assumed to be using AR.
- Creating a combination of a virtual world and the real world.
- Accurate 3-D registration of real objects and virtual objects.
- Achieving a real-time interaction.
Major companies like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google (Google augmented reality) have adopted AR. The user base of AR is fast growing and is expected to cross $ 75 billion by 2022.
Augmented Reality Applications in Real Life.
Here are some Augmented Reality Applications in real life.
In research conducted by Deloitte Research, healthcare business models will be transformed by AR. It has a substantial scope in the healthcare industry. These applications are useful in critical care treatment, diagnosis, and surgery.
In training, medical students can use AR applications in telemedicine options and interact with patients. Handheld devices like AccVein can scan a patient’s vein network.
Situational awareness is improved for defense forces by implementing Tactical Augmented Reality (TAR). It is an eyepiece used by soldiers to locate their precise location with a friend and friendly forces in the vicinity. The device is connected to a gadget worn by the soldier and to the thermal site of the weapon.
In the future, TAR will replace night vision devices. It may also replace the handheld GPS navigation system used by combat teams to know their location.
Studies also show that more than 50% of consumers are more likely to based on AR experience. In a report published by Gartner, approximately 100 million people will use AR-enabled shopping technology by 2022. The study also shows that more than 32% of retailers will adopt AR technology for their businesses in the next three years.
To illustrate, Sephora, a cosmetic company, is using AR technology to check their makeup before buying. Similarly, Rolex is also using AR to help customers try different models before they purchase. In the future, AR will change the shopping experience of people with brands enabling enhanced customer satisfaction.
Will Human Augmentation Become a Megatrend in the Future?
Human Augmentation seems more relevant in medical research. Till now, it is used to reinforce the biological performance of human beings. The exoskeleton, prosthetics, and sensory implants are all examples of Human Augmentation but more relevant to medical research. However, Human Augmentation coupled with AI is also used in Military research and other technologies.
Businesses have the challenge of adopting changing trends, technology, and automation. At the same time, they also need to develop trust in their customers. The advancement of technology is creating a trust deficit. Innovations like AI, robotics, VR, and AR are autonomous as well as emulates human traits. Consequently, these technologies will have a huge impact on human psychology and emotional response.
If we analyze Human Augmentation concerning the evolution of technology and changing trends, it is already a megatrend. Human Augmentation is not only giving creation power to people, but it is also changing markets, creating communities and thought processes. As we have witnessed how the computer has changed the face of the world, similarly, Human Augmentation has the same potential. The question is not about if the ideas will come to reality, but how quickly?
Challenges Posed by Human Augmentation.
Human Augmentation poses certain challenges that need a closer view. Here are a few things that need attention.
1.Is Technology Real?
The first concern before undertaking a project is if the technology is available. Are the components ready to deliver, or is there still research going on? The next criteria are the budget; will the technology be affordable to small and medium businesses?
The users must easily adopt successful augmentation. Extensive research, testing, and design parameters can make it possible. The technology must be reliable, safe, and easily accepted by the masses.
Human Augmentation may be a popular stream for debate, but is it a good idea to augment the human body and potential? Will the government ensure safe practices in society? If augmentation can enhance the efficiency of a few selected individuals, what about others? Will they get enough employment?
If augmentation creates deadlier weapons, are we creating the next big danger for society? Even in the medical field, genetically modified babies and vaccines may alter the entire human gene. Advancement also muddles our ethical values, and we need to rethink if the world needs it.
Certainly, there is a lot of introspection needed before we implement Human Augmentation in the mainstream of society. However, we cannot deny that there are several potential benefits of the technology. It takes intensive research, money, and a talented team to come up with new inventions.
As AI, Robots, and VR are becoming part of the real world, we must apply checks and balances to protect human ethics and traditions. We need a new approach to technology in a world of growing skepticism and threats. We need a strategy to handle advancing technology; the truth is Human Augmentation will change the world we see today.
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