Human augmentation is a field of research that aims to enhance the human experience through medicine or technology.
The focus is on creating cognitive and physical improvements by expanding the current human senses and even creating entirely new abilities.
Team HART fundamentally believes in making the world more inclusive by replacing limitations with technological possibilities.
We envision a future where the constraints of human biology dissolve, and new ways of perceiving the world arise by giving people freedom of experience.
Our team is researching the possibility of communicating information via haptic feedback. We are designing a wearable sleeve that contains 24 vibration motors. These components create distinct vibrational patterns that are felt on the forearm. Each of these patterns holds a specific meaning so that virtually any type of information that can be transformed into a sequence of vibrations can be transferred to the user by the sleeve.
The adaptability of our approach gives us the chance to create multiple applications that expand the human senses. We want to utilize the current knowledge of state-of-the-art Artificial Intelligence, advanced sensors, and the human brain and body to enable people to use our sleeve to receive all kinds of information.
Currently, the team is exploring and developing two applications:
1. Language: For this application, we break down words from the English language into their corresponding phonemes. Every phoneme gets assigned its very own vibrational pattern. Users then train via our learning environment and start to understand the vibrational “language” we have created; once they are familiar with identifying the phonemes, the brain can start to recognize the information that is being sent through the vibrations in the forearm.
This technology allows you to feel language on your arm instead of listening to it with your ears.
2. Non-Verbal Communication: In this case, we make use of Artificial Intelligence to detect and recognize someone’s facial expressions, gestures, or emotions. This would enhance the social experience during the interaction as you could feel the expressions of others on your arm and therefore, you would be able to resonate with them as well as better understand social cues, which ends up helping to communicate in a much more inclusive manner.
This technology allows you to feel emotions on your arm instead of seeing them with your eyes.
Throughout history, technological and cultural progress has freed up the human experience. We now have information at our fingertips and aim to be free to express ourselves the way we want.
However, the way in which we experience the world is still limited by the sensory receptors given to us at birth.
HART’s first long-term goal is to raise awareness of the subject of human augmentation and bring it into the domain of public conversation. In the past, the main focus of human augmentation has been on creating medicine or surgically installing implants to enhance human abilities. Lately, however, augmented reality and interactive technologies have also enabled more non-invasive ways to enhance human capabilities. Thus, to keep up with the rate of development of the field, it is important to ensure an understanding of its implications for the general public as it will directly impact society’s well-being.
Our second long-term goal is tech-related: developing a platform that shows the possibility of human augmentation with some examples of applications while allowing others to build their own. Imagine a platform like the App Store, but instead of apps, anyone can download new senses for their haptic devices.
Human augmentation is all about increasing our natural abilities and we are already experiencing this due to smartwatches and smartphones.
Have you ever thought about the fact that you can talk to someone living on the other side of the earth?
In general, we identify three stages of human augmentation: substitution, addition, and extension. Substitutional human augmentation entails enhancing impaired persons to regain their missing abilities; two examples are a prosthetic arm and an insulin pump.
In the addition stage, the focus lies on expanding the human abilities that we are born with. So, prosthetically creating the eleventh finger or enabling 360-degree vision are both forms of additional human augmentation.
In the extension stage, you can let your imagination run wild; extension is not just strengthening human abilities but creating entirely new ones. Think about the ability to perceive your internal health statistics in a similar way you experience how hungry you are. Other examples that fall into the extension category are extending life or sensing the electromagnetic field around us.