Part four in our doc series investigates the ways in which wearable tech is making our bodies smarter, faster, and stronger.
In the third installment of our five part documentary series, Make It Wearable (in support of Intel's Make It Wearable challenge), we highlighted the various, mind-blowing ways in which wearable technology is changing the contemporary fashion game for the better.
Today, we're proud to present Make It Wearable Part 4: Becoming Superhuman, a look inside how wearables are allowing users to exceed the natural, biological limits placed on the human body. These are wearables that seem ripped straight from the pages of your favorite pulp science fiction—don't let it fool you: the wearables you're about to see here are every bit as real as they are extraordinary.
Whether it's goggles that sharpen our vision, allowing us to see an object's history in a series of slow-mo motion trails, or cybernetic legs that provide smart limbs to amputee victims, these are wearables that, described best by fashion technologist, Syuzi Pakhchyan, could allow any one of us to, "become a cyborg, in a conceptual way."
Watch Superhuman, part four of Make It Wearable above, and continue reading for more insight into some of the wearable technologies that could possibly change the course of human evolution forever.
Neil Harbisson, The Synesthetic Cyborg
Our friends at Motherboard once noted, "Neil Harbisson is one of the world's first bona fide cyborgs." Born with complete color blindness, the Barcelona-based cybernetics expert was determined to perceive colors the same way most the rest of us naturally do. During his studies, a lecture by digital futurist Adam Montandon sparked a collaboration: the duo began prototyping the device that today allows Harbisson to "hear" the colors his eyes cannot see. Known as the Eyeborg, this cybernetic twist on synesthesia currently makes up successful residence in Harbisson's very own skull.
Utilizing a camera that hangs just above his eyes (see image above), the Eyeborg detects the frequency of the colors presented Harbisson, and assigns each its own microtone. Thus, every object he's presented with becomes its own sonic color. An orange bottle, for instance, produces an F# tone, and Harbisson thus understands its hue. "It's changed the way I perceive everything, because everything has sounds," he told The Creators Project. "Even the way I perceive art has changed, as painters have become composers."
While the skull implant makes this wearable more a body part than an extension, our future could include devices such that they can be taken off at any time.
The latter is a project he coordinated that included the input from hackers at the Graffiti Research Lab, Free Art and Technology Lab, and openFrameworks to yield this opensource, DIY device. The Eyewriter enables individuals with paralysis to communicate and create art by moving their eyes. It was originally created for Tempt One, an LA graffiti artist who was diagnosed with ALS, but thanks to the device, he was able to write his first piece of graffiti in seven years using the wearable tech. This innovation could have changed the fate of Jean-Dominique Bauby, whose paralysis was documented in the infamous The Diving Bell And The Butterfly.
Ebeling has since spoken at TED and continuous to develop futuristic entrepreneurial ventures.
Seeing Motion History And Isolating Sound With Eidos
Eidos, a wearable augmented reality device created by designers Tim Bouckley, Yuta Sugawara, Millie Clive-Smith, and Mi Eun Kim, allows the wearer to enhance and control their own senses in real time. This project includes two prototypes: Eidos Vision and Eidos Audio, both of which give new meanings to the idea of the "super sense."
Eidos Vision affects perception of motion by showing the sort of proxemic history of objects normally hidden to the naked eye. For example, seen through the Eidos, a runner looks like a delayed, slow-mo version of him or herself, man where their previous steps trail just behind their current ones. The project looks like the work of some clever Photoshopping, but the user sees the motion history as it happens.
Eidos Audio, on the the other hand, is a new take on private acoustic space. The gear allows users to isolate sounds in crowded settings. Screening out background noise, much like with hypersonic sound devices, users are enabled to pick and choose what they want to hear.
Marshall McLuhan and your theories about technology as an extension of the senses: eat your heart out.
Body Enhancement And Recovery
In Make It Wearable Part 2: Human Health, we investigated the myriad of ways in which wearables are improving medicine and doctor-patient relationships—today, wearables can also change the lives of patients for the better. Take Craig Hutto, for example: after a shark cost him his leg, a wearable implant designed by researchers at Vanderbilt University, now provides him a "bionic leg," that uses a variety of sensors and motors to replicate joint and muscle movements. This allows his prosthetic limb to be both smart and safe; it understands when he's walking uphill or running.
Similarly, New Scientist recently shared a video of Jason Barnes using a robotic arm with built-in drumsticks, after a freak accident took away his ability to play as a functioning drummer. Today, with help from a wearable implant made by Gil Weinberg at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Barnes can now play any Art Blakely beat you can imagine. For more on Barnes' story, see New Scientist. These examples could become widespread realities for those who've lost limbs or the control over body parts. But not only do these wearables replicate the limbs' original functions, they enhance them into something arguably smarter and stronger. Cue the theme song from The Six Million Dollar Man.)
These are just a few of the many examples of how wearables are giving people skills and abilities that are as close to the term "superhuman" as we can imagine. These are the first steps in wearable cybernetics and body enhancement, but it's certain they won't be the last. As Harbisson says in our doc, these wearables could improve "humans in a way we've never thought about."
For more on wearables, re-visit our first three installments of Make It Wearable:
Also, check out our video premiere of Intel's Make It Wearable Challenge that will award fresh innovators for sharing their inventions: Think You Have The Next Big Idea In Wearables?
For more on the challenge, see Intel's Make It Wearable site.