One of my great interests has always been the coming together of humans and the machines they create, be that in the way we interact with them or more recently the integration of technology into the human body. The merging of man and machine has always been a sci-fi trope, with cyborgs, androids, human augment enhancements and such. But like many technologies, those that were fiction are beginning to take form in the real world. This blending between organic and mechanical has been showcased across all known media platforms, from TV and films, to video games and books, with varying perspectives and outlooks on the use of this type of technology. Being captivated by franchises such as Star Trek and Deus Ex, where there was a real attempt to make the technology sound like it could work in the real world, it drew me in with thoughts of where could we go if we were to really do this, and become a blend of both sides.
Limb replacement is currently a big focal point in the news, with companies such as Open Bionics offering fully customized, light weight, 3D printed hand and lower arm prosthetic limbs, from children through to adults. With a mechanical hand that has multi-grip functionality, being controlled through muscle sensors placed inside the arm socket that attaches to the remaining limb, the brilliantly named Hero Arm, also offers haptic feedback to give users a sense of feeling that previously they would not have with other limb prosthesis. The limbs are also completely customisable and bespoke to the user, from perfect socket fit, through to aesthetic design.
Apart from mechanical limb prosthesis, there is also more and more coming onto the medical market for other ailments, such as hearing implants that are embedded directly into a persons skull and act as an artificial eardrum, or artificial eyes (which are far more experimental) which utilise small digital cameras that can feed information back to a display or directly to the optical nerve.
However... although this developments are primarily designed to give back to those that have lost a limb, there are some 'augmentations' that people are beginning to have done that are purely for convenience, rather than for a medical reason. Sub-dermal implants are starting to hit the scene, and becoming more popular. These are typically nano capsule sized chips, that store bio metric information on that person. These can then be scanned to retrieve that data for various reasons. These implants can also be used to scan yourself through secure doors and areas, and even pay for things in the same way a contactless debit card would.
The communication between the brain and machine has also long been sought after as it could mean unlocking the way we interact with machines entirely, and possibly even removing limitations that we currently have altogether. Being able to map brainwaves and brain activity is nothing new, but being able to see how the brain works and enabling the brain to be the direct control is something different entirely. In recent years, using the brain as the control has seen significant strides. Even VR headsets are now being used as part of a brain controller, allowing the user to control everything they see through the headset via their mind alone. Unfortunately the current state of this technology is big, bulky, not very portable (and very power hungry) making it very much still in early developmental stage.
Thankfully the dystopian view on humans and machines becoming more merged seems to not be coming to pass, be that because media has already warned against it, or simply because the technology is not capable of doing what we are shown across games and TV. We have no terminators, no machine gun arms, or the borg, but what we do have is a positive start, with a push on making the world a better place for everyone, at least for now...