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An Introduction to Human Augmentation

  • Mallika Rangaiah
  • May 09, 2020
  • Updated on: Jun 21, 2021
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Possessing nil supernatural powers, using his knowledge and expertise with technology to overcome his disabilities and make himself stand out and emerge as extraordinary, Tony Stark is definitely a one of a kind superhero. Apart from being a fantastic representation of the cinematic employment of IoT, you know another area which Tony Stark has excellently showcased the prospects of? The answer is Human Augmentation


By adopting extensive technologies, Tony Stark has proven that disabilities can not only be cured but can even be an opportunity for enabling people to genuinely enhance themselves in place of these disabilities. So yes our legendary Tony Stark’s transition to Iron Man is an excellent and pretty cool example of Human Augmentation.



What is Human Augmentation?


The developments introduced by modern technology are what has led to the emergence of this technology, one which enhances the way we operate and the way we perceive our surroundings. A part of Gartner’s list of Top 10 strategic technology trends 2020, Human Augmentation is definitely the next hot thing. So let’s talk about what this phenomenon exactly is. 


In layman’s terms technologies that boost human productivity and enhance or restore the capabilities of the human body or mind is an area of computing that we call human augmentation. The primary aim of this phenomenon is cognitive and physical enhancements in the human experience. While being a concept which still remains relatively vague, the developments in this technology are meant to offer enhancements in case of crucial areas like human health, quality of life as well as performance. 


Some examples of its various applications include miners employing wearables for boosting the safety of workers or adopting data and applications for improving learning or new experiences, nanorobotics and performance-enhancing surgery. 


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Some more examples also include devices that assist in possessing enhanced sensory capabilities such as Google glasses for observing augmented visual content, next-generation cochlear implants for auditory sensing and processing, orthotics, or limb devices that enhance muscle capability.


Various other types of human-augmentation technologies abet particular IT resources such as the cloud computing, big data analytics computing, as well as mobile computing. These also encompass wearable devices like watches or bracelets which connect the human body to external sources of data which could be based on audio, visual, or text.



Types of Human Augmentation


Human augmentation can be branched into three main categories which hold varying functions:


The image shows an infographic highlighting the types of human augmentation

Types of Human Augmentation


1. Replicating human ability


The human augmentation technology which restores or replicates routine human abilities comes under the replication category. For instance, this could be hearing aids for the deaf or prosthetic limbs for the ones who are disabled. 


Replication helps in facilitating equal opportunities for those that have undergone a disastrous accident or ailment or for the ones who were born with inadequacies and face hindrances while fulfilling their everyday needs. The devices adopted here facilitate extensive psychological assistance for their users. 



2. Supplementing human ability


The human augmentation technology which enhances one’s ability in doing things comes under the supplementation category. For instance, these could be devices that artificially enhance one’s strength, improve one’s sight, and make them superior to the normal limits or enhance one’s intelligence. Such human augmentation which strengthens our physical or intellectual constraints can revolutionize our culture as well as bolster our prospects. 



3. Exceeding human ability


The human augmentation technology which enables us to carry out any phenomenon that we are physically limited from performing on our own comes under the exceeding augmentation category.  For example, think of those typical superhero skills such as the ability to be able to fly, the capability to breathe underwater, detect through the smell of chemicals that cannot be detected from the normal olfactory sense, and so on. 


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Although we may consider this kind of augmentation, the most fascinating, it's also the most far off and will take a much longer time to take shape properly. A large degree of its present applications is related to special use cases such as the military or some particular industries. 



Daily Life Examples of Human Augmentation


As various businesses across multiple industries throughout the world explore new and effective applications for human augmentation technologies, below are a few everyday examples of this technology. Some are still in their initial stage of development : 


Naked Prosthetics

The image shows a patient undergoing prosthetics



Naked Prosthetics is a firm that develops and contrives sturdy and custom prosthetic devices, particularly for finger loss. The firm aims to support people who have suffered finger amputation by enriching their lives and facilitating them with useful and functional finger prosthesis.




Skylight is a platform by Upskill, which has collaborated with Google for developing smart glasses for aviation engineers. The glasses assist in making B-nuts, which are a key element of jet engines, tighter. It’s crucial that these are tightened effectively to save the engine from failing. 


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The Skylight glasses aid in detecting when a B-nut is being tightened by a worker, and they adopt a torque wrench that has been connected to the WiFi for ensuring that a B-nut has been fastened properly.




Teslasuit is a human-to-digital interface developed for simulating the experience and enhancing the user’s skills through wearable haptic technology. The suit can control the temperature of the wearer, serve haptic feedback as well as track the movements of the wearer. Although this technology is presently being employed for VR immersion, the concept adopted in its development can also easily be related to human augmentation technology.


HoloLens 2 


HoloLens 2 is an untethered mixed reality device with apps and solutions that enhance collaboration. This device enables the user to visualize as well as manipulate objects in holographic form. The device has various industrial as well as commercial applications which include gaming, training employees, and 3D computer-aided design and design collaboration.


Invisibility Cloak


Who isn't fascinated by Harry Potter's invisibility cloak concept? Although we don't really have a fully palpable solution or product for this as of yet, we are definitely getting closer. Several researchers have churned up strategies for making particular objects or surfaces invisible, and they’re trying to apply these concepts when it comes to human cloaking.




Yet another project by Elon Musk is Neuralink, a neurotechnology company that has the aim of generating a brain-computer interface (BCI). If the project is successful, it would enable individuals to interact with a computer at a neural level. Although this project is still at its initial stage, Musk shows a great deal of promise for making it possible. 




eSight is a wearable device that bears a resemblance to glasses and offers legally blind individuals with the ability to see their environment. The device has cameras on the front that take in the environment in near-eye quality and display it on a screen that sits in front of the wearer’s eyes.




Bioprinting is the process of developing organic tissues (organs, bones, skin, etc.) through 3D printing techniques. Although this technology is still at its infant stage, it has the scope of fully redefining the medical industry and how we generally perceive healthcare.


Zapata Flyboard Air


Zapata Flyboard Air is a hoverboard powered by turbojet engines. In this hoverboard, the user stands on the top of it like a skateboard or surfboard and the board can fly up to 140km/hr in the air. The technology is so far, a tad on the expensive side.




SolarEar is a company that manufactures low-cost, solar-rechargeable as well as environment-friendly hearing aids. It helps to facilitate an affordable substitute for conventional hearing aids for the people who are hard of hearing or near-deaf. 





“Automation is not the future, human augmentation is. Algorithms can’t tell you how you can create value in your business, asking those sorts of questions is an innately human capability. Algorithms rely on humans having done that work first.” - The former Oracle director


Gartner has predicted that over the span of the coming ten years, high levels of physical and cognitive human augmentation will emerge to become more common as people explore personal enhancements. This will develop a new “consumerization effect” where employees will attempt to gain benefit from and unfurl these personal improvements to enhance their office environment. 


Before adopting this technology, there are five main areas that all businesses should focus on which include security, data privacy, compliance with government and regulatory, any potential impacts upon long-term mental and physical health as well as serious ethical issues. It is time that we work on determining how to cope and manage this new technology as it expands, and fixate on how we can employ it in an effective and positive manner. 

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