Bionic Technology to Enhance the Human Body

asian woman wearing bionic arms

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Bionics may have its main focus on body repair, but such objectives have always been just half of what it can do. After all, second to restoration is enhancement. Bionic technology doesn’t just treat disabilities – it also offers technology to enhance the human body and pushes beyond the limits the human body can naturally attain.

However, in order to achieve the wonders of bionics when it comes to body enhancement, there are a few operational designs, as well as fundamental principles, that need to be considered. Depending on the specific end goal, we can either build from a normal person’s abilities or start from body repair and then climb all the way to enhancement.

Human body enhancement by directly increasing aptitude

Principle-wise, the simplest method of enhancing the body using bionic technology is to improve on what we can already do. If we can carry materials as work, bionics can find a way to let us carry even more. If we can see a certain distance, then bionics can also provide additional options to enhance our viewing ability even further.

We’ll divide these enhancements into simpler categories of our definition for better clarification:

Strength enhancement – powered exoskeletal suits, as rudimentary as they seem to be compared to their science fiction counterparts, already play a role in many practical applications in real life. The objective is to transfer as much of the load as possible from the human body, while still maintaining movement and positioning freedom as the user sees fit. For example, workers augmented with an enhanced bionic system would be free from any customized control panels. Instead, they would simply make intuitive use of their arms, which are then supported by mechatronic components that bear the bulk of the carrying weight.

Many powered exoskeletons in development by military contractors work in this exact way. Lockheed Martin’s ONYX exoskeletal suit, for example, easily conforms to the human body, while considerably increasing the strength of the person wearing it.

Strain and stress reduction – along with the bionic system’s ability to carry loads greater than what normal people can, they are also typically designed to lessen the movement burden for the person using them. Again, load transfer is still the main objective. But this time, the result is increasing the effective duration that a person could accomplish the same task over and over.

Automatic Switch blog post on Bionic Technology showing exoskeletal bionic suit indicating that it would be cloth of future

Walking is fairly easy to do, and a person could adapt to long walking distances within a short period. But, with an exoskeletal suit, that time is cut even further, and for those already trained, greatly increases the maximum effective distance that they could travel without the risk of wearing out their legs. This is especially useful when walking uphill for a long time, or even walking while constantly carrying a moderate set of equipment.

This can even work well within the adaptive augmentation category. People who do not require limb amputation, for instance (and therefore cannot use myoelectric prosthetics), can still opt to use an exoskeleton suit to regain and potentially surpass their original capability to walk or hold things. This is the exact case for Ekso Bionics, helping disabled people to move normally again with the aid of what the company officially refers to as “wearable robots”.

Technology to enhance the human body by adding brand new features

But perhaps the more exciting feature that bionic technology has in store for enhancing the human body is by giving us abilities that we can’t naturally have in the first place. This is where many of the features we see in science fiction materialize, possibly inspiring actual research institutions to explore the reality of such ideas.

Load balance offsetting and adjustment – to expound on the last great aspect of powered exoskeletal technology, an enhancement-based bionic system can also be configured in a way that can automatically balance the weight distribution of components around your body. This is so that motion and posture can be maintained as you walk or run. For example, the user could be holding a heavy, metallic object upright, and the load-bearing system can simply swing counterweights opposite to the direction it is trying to move.

You can even just straight up add more limbs, and with those extra appendages carry more stuff or access different things at the same time. Think of something like the cybernetic tentacles of Otto Octavius. This, of course, encroaches into the whimsical and fantastic, with its individual technologies still requiring some few decades of maturity before a practical prototype can be built.

medical implants of AI powered Bionic Technology to Enhance the Human Body
Image credit by Ars Electronica/Intelligent Medical Implants via Flickr

Dynamic sensory efficiency adjustment – if we can roll all bionic organ technologies into one great invention, we could theoretically come up with something like Superman’s eyes, enhanced hearing, etc. Lasers are off the menu, of course. But we have a few candidate research projects and commercial products that could prove such a concept may be feasible in the far future.

  • First is focus adjustment and clarity focus. With something like a perfected version of the Ocumetics Bionic Lens, the average user can simply increase or decrease the level of depth and detail that each eye can see. You could narrow down the focus for creative handiwork projects, or see far, far away when scouting for objects at a distance. You can even use it despite already having an existing vision condition, since you can simply recalibrate the dynamic lense to balance out the sight level discrepancy.
  • Second is imprinting additional light information onto one’s retina. If the Argus II and Orion can send intensity and pixel information signals to the brain, respectively, then surely a more highly advanced version of the technology could interpret additional electromagnetic signals to your brain. For example, if there’s a blind, deep spot that you need to take caution of, or if certain light sources will be harmful to your body.
  • And third is controlling your hearing level. The now-closed Doppler Labs had such a concept with its Here One earbuds, having basic features such as filtering specific types of sounds  (as opposed to more generic noise-canceling functions), and increasing the level of reception for selected acoustic patterns. A more internalized version of this concept might be possible in the near future, although with no active commercial entities pursuing the concept, we may yet to see if it could even get off the drawing board.

Digitizing all physiological information – lastly, and one that we can’t elaborate too much on given the limited scope of the concept so far, is the idea that one day, all data processing of bionic systems can be handled directly by the brain. This is, to some extent, already nearing basic-level fruition with smart eyewear concepts, or even the fabled Neuralink system. But we hope for something a bit more ambitious, like how video games can analyze in real-time a player’s health statistics.

Do you want to spend a fortune on bionic enhancement?

Now, the idea of achieving transhumanism through bionic enhancements is exciting and all, but how exactly should one go about accomplishing this? It is hardly believable that any of these technologies would be available to the common person even after several decades. And if a commercial entity finds a way to roll them out, the exclusivity would make the complete package only available to the highest financial elites.

bionic Technology to Enhance the Human hand

But on a more fundamental level, do we even need these enhancements at all? Perhaps it is much better to treat them as investments, with the lower class people only choosing to spend their fortune on the technology if a considerable return is to be had.

Or, if a disability forces them to rely on bionic technologies in the first place.

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