The next generation of electronic gadgets won’t just include faster tablets or smarter phones – they’re being engineered to interact with and augment human anatomy.
The much-talked-about Google Glass leads the pack edging towards Transhumanism – technology used by human beings to augment biology.
Originating partially from 1980’s science fiction novels like William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Bruce Sterling's Schismatrix, Transhumanism is a scientific and philosophical movement which advocates biological enhancement using technology.
Google’s latest project – “Google Glass” – is designed to be worn across the face like glasses, and augments the reality of the user, using an electronic heads-up display to place digital images in the user's field of vision.
This interface would allow the wearer to interact with the electronic images in tandem with physical reality, and its responses to natural voice commands would allow access to smart phone capabilities in a hands-free format.
Imagine route guidance appearing over physical roads or broadcasting live field-of-vision video to viewers, all with a simple command.
Since it boasts capabilities plucked straight from beloved science fiction stories, it's no surprise that Google Glass has garnered huge amounts of attention among netizens.
The excitement reached fever-pitch last week when the Google released a new video detailing the device’s functionality, pulling in almost 14 millions views. Cries of “shut up and take my money” could be heard from all corners of the internet and reviewers begged for a chance to try the device before its launch – slated for late 2013.
Though it sounds futuristic, augmenting biology with technology is more common than you would expect.
Pacemakers, prosthetics and performance enhancing drugs are all common examples of the practice. Google Glass represents an accessible and affordable evolution in augmented reality technology and its pre-launch popularity may be indicative of a large consumer base eager to try its hand at complementing biology with gadgets.
Google is likely not the only tech giant looking to cash in on the augmented reality trend.
Along with patenting their own version of augmented reality glasses, PC World has reported that Microsoft is researching a number of other augmented reality projects. The OmniTouch project, a research venture for which Microsoft partnered with Carnegie Mellon University, involves a shoulder-mounted device that would project a display onto any surface – including parts of the human body.
Other companies, including tech giants Apple and Samsung, are reportedly developing smart watches, to be worn on a user’s wrist. While the reports on smart watches are mostly speculation at this point, the watches will most likely function similar to smart phones.
Sony is also developing a smart watch, which boasts the functionality of a smartphone.
“Your social network, your colleagues, family and friends know they can reach you because you miss nothing. Your phone can be in your bag or pocket or anywhere within 10 meters. Like a mini version of your smartphone, SmartWatch reflects what is happening in your world and lets you know,” read a product description of the smart watch on Sony’s website.
Star Trek's Data may not fictional for that much longer.