- For much of human history, augmenting the human body has been a theme of both fiction and technological achievement. The traditional view of augmentation has been as a functional extension of the human body. Contemporary technological innovations such as the brain-computer or brain machine interface, high-resolution virtual environments, and optimization algorithms have also made the notion of HA technologically explicit. Less understood are the cognitive and biological processes underlying embodied cybernetic systems capable of augmenting the human body, brain, and mind.
Human augmentation is an interdisciplinary field that addresses methods, technologies and their applications for enhancing sensing, action and cognitive abilities of a human. This is achieved through sensing and actuation technologies, fusion and fission of information, and artificial intelligence (AI) methods.
Human augmentation can further be divided into three main categories of augmentation:
- Augmented senses (aka enhanced senses, extended senses) are achieved by interpreting available multisensory information and presenting content to the human through selected human senses. Sub-classes include augmented vision, hearing, haptic sensation, smell, and taste.
- Augmented action is achieved by sensing human actions and mapping them to actions in local, remote or virtual environments. Sub-classes include motor augmentation, amplified force, and movement, speech input, gaze-based controls, teleoperation, remote presence, and others.
- Augmented cognition (aka enhanced cognition) is achieved by detecting human cognitive state, using analytical tools to make a correct interpretation of it, and adapting computer’s response to match the current and predictive needs of the user (providing stored or recorded information during natural interaction).
The proposed enabling technologies for wearable augmentation are the following:
- Sensing technologies detect the environment, objects, and events. These include pattern recognition and other computer vision methods, auditory sensors, spatial, thermal and movement sensors, multispectral cameras, and touch, olfactory and gustatory sensors.
- Multisensory presentation technologies support attention, memory, and perception; it is achieved through light-weight multimodal mixed reality glasses, crossmodal information presentation, and wearable accessories. It applies different human senses: sight, hearing, touch, olfaction, gustation as channels to mediate augmented sensing and feedback on augmented actions.
- Human activity measurement technologies are based on different wearable sensors. Human activities are recognized as inputs through, for example, speech recognition, motor activity tracking, eye tracking, and force and touch input. Based on this low-level information, human activities are modeled at a higher level.
- Actuation technologies are used to affect the environment as directed by the human. These include different kinds of visual displays, audio equipment, haptic actuators as well as smell and taste generators. In immersive environments, also the sense of balance may be affected through the generation of forces and human pose.
- Ubiquitous information services and artificial intelligence technologies will provide access to networked information services, internet of things and artificial intelligence support. This will enable to develop personalized AI extensions that can assist and autonomously support a variety of tasks that users are unable or unwilling to perform.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Human augmentation is one of the fields where recent advancements have a clear potential for making this a reality. Wearable augmentation technologies and related interaction methods provide an excellent opportunity to realize the possibilities enabled by modern science and technology, benefiting humanity in unprecedented ways.