A common definition of human augmentation is “technologies that increase the productivity or performance of humans or enrich the human body in some way”. We would like to add that in order to be an extension, something must be integrated into the user’s life in such a way that it becomes an extension of him. For example, a hammer is only relevant when you need it, so it wouldn’t be an extension. But a sufficiently discreet exoskeleton could become just as normal for your life as your ability to walk and would therefore be an asset. Under this rule, a laptop would not be considered an extension, but a smartphone – and a mobile smartwatch in particular – could easily be considered an extension. It’s almost always with you (or with you), expanding your ability to access information at all times.
Portable devices, chip implants, and genetic alterations would be examples of augmentations under this definition.
Human Augmentation is a broad term that encompasses innovations aimed at improving human skills and productivity.
Physical augmentation such as prostheses, AR lenses and RFID tags that are infused into humans belong to the field of human augmentation.
This can help improve human perception, perception and the ability to act. This is achieved through sensor and actuation technology, information fusion and splitting, and artificial intelligence.
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Robotics for human augmentation
Fundamental advances in robotics will bring human sensory experience, physicality, and cognition to unprecedented levels. With the help of augmentation technology, future humans will be stronger, faster, less prone to injury and more productive. Future technologies will not only compensate for human handicap, but also enhance human capabilities beyond innate physiological levels and enable humans to perform a variety of tasks with both anthropomorphic and non-anthropomorphic extended bodies. For example, the field of robotics has already advanced wearable supernatural limbs that are mechanically linked to the body and give a person additional limbs to expand physicality beyond traditional boundaries (Parietti and Asada, IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 2016). Augmentative technologies will have a transformative impact on broad social, political and economic domains, affecting the future of sport, labor productivity, human longevity and disability.
Science Robotics searches for manuscripts that convey seminal discoveries within the emerging science of human augmentation and address the scientific principles underlying novel robotics technology. Exceptionally high quality manuscripts are sought that examine the use of biomechanical, biochemical, and neurological models of the human body to guide the development of augmentation technologies for individuals with unusual or normal physiologies.
Types of human augmentation
Human augmentation can be further divided into three main categories with different functions:
Replicating human abilities: Human extensions that restore or replicate typical human abilities fall into the category of replication. These include prostheses for the disabled, hearing aids for the deaf and speech synthesizers for the mute.
Complement of human abilities: Human supplements that improve our ability to do something, fall under the category of supplements. This includes devices that artificially increase our strength, improve our eyesight beyond normal limits, or increase our intelligence.
Beyond human capabilities: Human augmentations that enable us to do things that we cannot do alone fall into the category of excessive augmentation. These include things like the ability to fly, breathe underwater, see ultraviolet or infrared light, and smell chemicals that are currently imperceptible to the human sense of smell.
Five examples of human augmentation
Many parts of the human body can be enlarged, but here are five examples that show some of the directions augmentations can go:
- EksoWorks creates exoskeletons for industrial and rehabilitation purposes. Their products are devices that users wear on their bodies (usually from the upper body) for artificial strength and endurance. These devices come in different flavors for different tasks to aid users in areas such as construction, auto manufacturing, and even physical therapy.
- SolarEar is an affordable, rechargeable solar hearing aid. It offers the hard of hearing and nearly deaf people an affordable alternative to conventional hearing aids and brings the technology to countries and regions that were previously unable to afford such devices.
- The Teslasuit is a wearable outfit that allows you to control the wearer’s temperature, Giving haptic feedback and being able to follow the wearer’s movements. While this technology is currently used for immersion in VR, the ideas that went into its development can easily be carried over into the realm of expansion.
- Skylight, a platform from Upskill, has partnered with Google to to develop intelligent glasses for aerospace engineers. The goggles help tighten B-nuts, which are a critical part of jet engines. These nuts must be tightened perfectly or the motor could fail. The skylight can detect when a worker is tightening a B-nut and it uses a Wi-Fi connected torque wrench to determine when a B-nut has been tightened perfectly.
- Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) are interfaces that allow a person to interact with a computer or machine using only their mind. While most of this technology is still conceptual, the possibilities are limitless. BCI is not just about sending information to a computer, it is also about enabling people to get new types of information from their computers in return. Computers may one day be able to digitally replicate aspects of the human experience so that individuals can experience software with all five senses.