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Human Augmentation in 2024: Examples and Technologies

Cem Dilmegani
Updated on Jan 12
5 min read

As technology improves, we witness achievements that could only be compared to what the science fiction books once described in the future. Human augmentation is a field that can be a driving force behind the substantial change in our society and lifestyle. According to an analysis, the human augmentation market is expected to grow by more than twice till 2026. However, there are numerous misconceptions about human augmentation, its current use, and its potential.. There have been significant improvements and achievements in the field, such as developed prosthetics that can replace body parts, devices that restore hearing, bioprinting, exoskeletons, etc. 

In this research, we explore what human augmentation is, how it works, and where it is applied in today’s businesses.

What is human augmentation?

By definition, “Human augmentation is an interdisciplinary field that addresses methods, technologies and their applications for enhancing sensing, action and/or 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 does not only refer to the “cyborgization” of human beings, and it is not entirely based on the unforeseen future. Human Augmentation, simply put, refers to increasing or restoring the abilities of a human temporarily or permanently with technology or artificial chemicals. However, it is not only limited to enhancing the current skills. Human Augmentation also paves the way for creating new skills and adding new features. Of course, the scope of enhancement or additions in the skills is dependent on the specific tool and its use. 

Human Augmentation examples and technologies 

Human Augmentation works in three ways, considering the body functionality enhancing or restoring. 

  • Sensory augmentation is attained by multisensory information processing for enhancement of the abilities to perceive external stimuli. The most rudimentary example of visual sensory augmentation technology could be navigational aids used by people with visual impairment. Hearing augmentation, such as a hearing aid, is a kind of sensory augmentation that enhances its users’ hearing ability. However, the technology for sensory augmentation does not only involve impaired skills. Night-vision goggles used by military forces are great examples of visual augmentation. More advanced sensory augmentation would be the technology that alters perception, such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) or mixed reality.
  • Augmented Cognition – Psychological and neurophysiological monitoring of the human’s cognition allows augmented cognition technology to build complex interaction with its user. The technology uses information provided by the user to cater to their needs. Augmented cognition enhances the cognitive abilities of its user and, with the help of artificial intelligence, improves their decision-making skills, minimizes their biases with more data-oriented choices, etc. Another goal of the technology is to improve memory and attention, addressing the needs of those with amnesia or ADHD. 
  • Augmented Action technology in the past mainly focused on the restoration of the body functions through building prosthetic body parts. There are many continuing projects to better implement the restoration of the body parts. For instance, Naked Prosthetics produces prosthetics for those who lost their fingers. Their products create an improved level of dexterity for their customers.

Moreover, augmented action technology is also used to develop technologies that enhance human abilities. For example, Ford, a multinational automobile manufacturer, provides some of its employees with exoskeletons that support their spine when lifting heavy weight. 

Future of human augmentation technologies

While there have been compelling developments in human augmentation, technology is not mainstream. One of the reasons behind such stagnant common-use trends despite the improvements is the fact that the current technology does not allow utilization of the full potential of human augmentation. According to Ernst & Young Megatrends report, through advances in the below-mentioned five fields that plays the role of infrastructure, the use of human augmentation will become more widespread:

  • 5G is the fifth-generation mobile network. Compared to previous wireless standards, 5G can provide faster speed, reduced latency and greater network capacity. These functions of 5G allow connected devices to communicate and transfer data in huge volumes without lag. Used in tandem with other technologies, 5G optimizes bandwidth demanded by the human augmentation technologies. For instance, Verizon, a wireless network operator, proposes an augmented reality app operating with 5G that combines in-store and online shopping experiences. Through an augmented reality app, a customer could upload their shopping list to the application, which in return would transmit the information to the nearby MEC server. As a result, the application would recommend to the customer the optimal route to take in the store, would inform them regarding the discounts and coupons, provide information regarding the products and optimize the overall shopping experience. This would be possible due to faster speed, reduced latency and greater network capacity provided by 5G.
  • Edge Computing is the workload transition from the cloud to the “edge .”Edge in this context refers to local computations made by the device autonomously without referring back to the cloud. The device makes computations based on the local actions and created data. It is, in fact, essential for many human augmentation technologies such as autonomous cars. For example, truck platooning, linking two or more trucks in a convoy to follow the first truck, utilizes edge computing. Trucks on the line analyze data locally and provide communication between vehicles in convoy. Data processing happening near the source of data allows further accessibility for the user and plays a significant role in technologies such as augmented reality. Because of such accessibility and with the lower latency of 5G technology, remote workers could share their environment with augmented reality and work together on a physical task from a distance.
  • Next-generation batteries – Reliable power source is one of the vital needs of human augmentation hardware. Next-generation alternatives to Li-On batteries are being developed, as Li-On batteries are fire-prone and require immense resources.
  • IoT precision Sensors are an essential part of monitoring the environment around the user to process data and critical control of performance. With the recent developments in precision sensors, they would be able to recognize changes in the human body. Furthermore, IoT devices could integrate with prosthetic body parts or exoskeletons and help the user navigate their environment safely.
  • Quantum Computing – Practical application of quantum computing would not only increase the speed of computing for human augmentation devices but also would affect the development of other products by solving complex scientific problems. As we mentioned in our previous article, quantum computing can provide artificial intelligence with a boost in terms of computation, allowing it to perform more complex tasks and AGI.

Challenges to human augmentation

  • Data Privacy – As some types of human augmentation technologies rely on data processing, it raises concerns over the private data implications of the technology. For example, lifelogging is used by many people to enhance their health and record their life records personal private data. It brings further complications to protect data in such cases.
  • Reliability– Failure in some of the human augmentation technologies could result in serious injuries or fatality. In the case of Ford, defects in the operations of their exoskeletons could harm the health of the employee. According to the research conducted by Ohio State University, failure in exoskeletons may even strain the brain.
  • Ethical Concerns: Testing the human augmentation technology, especially those that augment cognition, requires an intricate process that may raise concerns over ethics. The latest example was when Neuralink, a neurological company developing brain implants that would remarkably affect cognitive skills, started testing their chips on animals. University of California, Davis, which collaborates with Neuralink on the testing, in fact, is facing legal actions for animal abuse. 

While we can witness some developments in the field of human augmentation, it is becoming increasingly important to solve the above-mentioned challenges to achieve more mainstream use of contemporary human augmentation technology. 

Access Cem's 2 decades of B2B tech experience as a tech consultant, enterprise leader, startup entrepreneur & industry analyst. Leverage insights informing top Fortune 500 every month.
Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst
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Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst

Cem has been the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per similarWeb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.

Cem's work has been cited by leading global publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Washington Post, global firms like Deloitte, HPE, NGOs like World Economic Forum and supranational organizations like European Commission. You can see more reputable companies and media that referenced AIMultiple.

Throughout his career, Cem served as a tech consultant, tech buyer and tech entrepreneur. He advised businesses on their enterprise software, automation, cloud, AI / ML and other technology related decisions at McKinsey & Company and Altman Solon for more than a decade. He also published a McKinsey report on digitalization.

He led technology strategy and procurement of a telco while reporting to the CEO. He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem's work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider.

Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.

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Dec 11, 2022 at 13:04

Interesting article. Thank you. Ethics of this could be a concern for some. Isn’t it UC, Davis, not Devis?

Bardia Eshghi
Jan 20, 2023 at 05:21

Hi Becker. We’re glad you enjoyed the article. And it is UC Davis, indeed. Thanks for catching it. We’ve fixed it.

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