Augmented Humanity close

Beth Gladstone
In It's a Random World, Musings
19th February 2014
Augmented Humanity

Looking at the products that were unveiled at CES 2014 this year, it's clear that consumer technology has taken a huge leap forward. Video games that get harder the more your heart rate rises, headwear which gives you “superhuman” vision and other devices which promise to deliver results based on the way we think, feel and act. In other words, it looks as though Augmented Humanity is here.

What does it mean?

“Augmented Humanity”, is a phrase that was coined in 2010 by ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt. It defines the use of technology to both aid, and replace, human capability in a way that joins person and machine as one.

For a long time now, our TVs, cars and homes, have been becoming more connected. For most of us, the mobile phone is already like a fifth limb. Augmented humanity is the next stage of our reliance on technology, where wearable devices begin to pre-empt what we want through our mood, heart rate and body temperature. This augmentation also defines machinery used to replace or enhance parts of the body. If you've ever had eye laser surgery you're already taking advantage of it!

Where will we see this?

Predictions range from the extremely useful to the exceptionally ridiculous but here are a few interesting concepts we've found:

  • ‘Edios Audio’ - a mask that allows you to “zoom in” on nearby conversations, gaining a momentary ‘spidey sense’ of enhanced selective hearing.

  • Google Glass’ wink activated snapshot feature - a tool that allows you to take a photographic memory of where your car is parked to ensure you never lose it on a shopping trip again

  • Spotify’s sensor which listens to the user’s body to measure heartrate and choose music based on mood

  • A tiny device called Reveal LINQ, which sends irregular heart rate data from patient to doctor, via a 3G box that lives under your bed

How far will we surrender our senses to the autonomy of machines?

This depends widely on when the technology comes to market and how quickly it becomes affordable!

It’s already clear that such technology will thrive in medical research and could revolutionise the way we treat and manage specific medical conditions. Google has certainly seen traction, releasing information of a ‘Smart Contact Lense’ to measure insulin levels, as well as Google Glass which could be used to assist Doctors in complex medical procedures.

In a professional sense, Augmented Humanity will increase efficiency, translating our multilingual phone calls in realtime or even providing dresswear which improves endurance or efficiency.

As with most influential technological developments, there are ethical issues associated with just how far this technology will be allowed to hack the human senses or enhance them.

In the sports arena in particular, an augmented human would have much more of an advantage than a ‘normal’ one and superhuman characteristics could be difficult to monitor. Population could also become a problem, if artificial organ and brain insemination begins to extend our lives.. indefinitely!

It’s difficult at this stage, to know which area the concept will take off in first, but there’s one thing I am certain of; the day we need underwear to tell us if we’re in love is the day we’ll know that things have gone too far!