Over many centuries the human has been extending their physical, cognitive, and social abilities in all activities. Every major technological breakthrough in the history made the human more capable, which changed the life style and the society. These changes have been many orders of magnitude faster than evolutional changes. Yet, the changes will be even more accelerated with a new generation of wearable, implantable, and prosthetics technologies that directly augment the human abilities in broad function. In the near future, we envision that the human will gain unprecedented-level physical, cognitive, and social abilities, becoming a new type of technological creature, which we call “Human 2.0”.
Robotics is among the key enabling technologies to the creation of Human 2.0. Physical prosthetic devices, exoskeletons and powered suites, wearable sensors, implantable devices, and visual and hearing aids are just a few examples of the technologies that have been developed within the robotics community and its collaborators. These devices are primarily for compensating for certain disabilities and abnormalities targeted for a certain patient population. However, the technology has been developed further and is reaching a turning point where the wearers of the devices can exceed the performance of average people. We have already seen that a handicapped athlete can run faster and a longer distance with simple augmentation devices. The technology is being extended from compensation to augmentation and enhancement.
We have also seen new types of wearable robots that provide the wearer with extra limbs. These supernumerary robotic limbs have emerged to augment the human function in manipulation and locomotion, streamlining task execution, increasing power and strength, improving dexterity, and reducing fatigue and injuries. New types of brain-robot communication and cognitive prosthetics are also pointing in the future direction of human augmentation.