Here comes the future! Are you ready for augmented vision, brain-computer interface and the end of personal computers and smartphones? From Elise Bohan, 10 Human Body Modifications You Can Expect in the next Decade:
“Your smartphone enhances your mind, your spectacles enhance your vision, and your pacemaker (if you have one) regulates your heartbeat. Our environment is increasingly wired, sensor-filled, and digitally connected—and so are we! This trend will only continue.”
All over the world biohackers, scientists, entrepreneurs and corporations are eagerly pursuing new and marketable applications for advanced technologies. Here are a few emerging devices and technologies that could soon enhance you in body and mind.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips implanted in hands or wrists can be used to make tap-and-go payments and can be programmed to open a home or office door electronically. No more carrying keys down to the beach when going for a swim, and no more jogging with them jangling in your pocket.
With electronic medical records becoming more pervasive, personal medical data could also be stored on implanted RFID chips. If you arrive in the emergency room and need a blood transfusion you can immediately be scanned for your blood type. Allergic to certain medications?
In the near future, exoskeletons could help laborers to use the correct muscles when lifting and allow them to lift more weight safely. More profoundly, if you suffer from spinal cord injuries an exoskeleton could help you to walk again. Elderly people with mobility issues could also benefit from the technology.
Real-time Language Translation
With artificial intelligence facilitating a whole new level of precision in this field, a wave of companies are racing to bring even better products to the market, including Microsoft and Google. The US startup Waverly Labs has crowdsourced over $4 million and has pre-sold 22,000 prototype earbuds that will translate in real time while canceling ambient noise.
Bionic eyes are a thing! They are currently used to treat hereditary and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and rely on a camera mounted on glasses feeding inputs to electrodes attached to the retina. This technique is a remarkable, though still imperfect, means of reversing a form of blindness.
Another kind of intra-ocular bionic lens that is currently being tested in clinical trials, aims to restore clear vision at all distances, without glasses or contact lenses regardless of the age of the patient. Ideally, “three times better than 20/20 vision” could be achieved and laser eye surgery could eventually be rendered obsolete.
Telescopic contact lenses have already been developed, which can enable the user to zoom in and out with a wink. The technology was developed by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and could soon be marketed to sufferers of AMD. But as the technology improves and gets cheaper it could eventually become the norm to have telescopic vision, as well as other add-ons like night vision.
Smart Contact Lenses
But wait, the eye stuff gets even cooler! Both Sony and Samsung have patented smart contact lens technology that can record video by blinking. The augmented reality company Magic Leap is also working on a smart contact lens, in tandem with its much anticipated new augmented reality headset. Both products will be able to overlay computer generated images onto the real world.
But augmented reality tech isn’t just for fun. Another application of smart contact lenses being developed at the X lab (formerly Google X) is the capability to detect blood glucose levels in tears and alert diabetics when their blood sugar is too low.
How could this change your life in the next decade? Leading transhumanists and tech gurus Peter Diamandis and Kevin Kelly think that in the near future these kinds of innovations will hail the end of PCs, smartphones and screens-as-we-know-them. Soon you could walk around with the equivalent of your smartphone inside you, while the screen could be both everywhere and nowhere. Classic miniaturization and dematerialization in action!
3D Printed Body Parts
Already, artificial intelligence and cheap genomic sequencing are accelerating the drug discovery process and facilitating an increase in effective personalized medicine. Unsurprisingly, pharmaceutical companies, governments and tech corporations are eagerly getting in on this medical big data game.
Scientists are on track to sequence 1 million human genomes by 2020 and personalized cancer treatments are already increasingly common and effective.
Humans can already control wheelchairs, advanced neuroprosthetic limbs and drones with their minds. Brain-computer interfaces (BCI) have also been used to communicate with patients suffering from the rare affliction of locked-in syndrome. Soon we could be using technology like this all the time, not just to correct for disabilities, but to enhance communication and sensory connection. Perhaps we could even connect telepathically?
The leaders of Stanford University’s NeuroTechnology Initiative believe that in years to come “brain-machine interfaces will transform medicine, technology and society” and that “future devices will likely not only restore, but also augment, human capacities.”