CSCE 4613 Artificial Intelligence – Preliminary Report – Fall 2011
Most, if not all, of us have dreamed of having abilities beyond human capability. Human augmentations are devices that give humans these capabilities. The objective of this project was to document the state of current and possible future human augmentation technology and to discover how well current augmentations on the market work. The project tested a sight enhancement, HD Vision Aviator sunglasses, which claim users will be able to see everything in the world in high definition with clarity users will not believe . A hearing enhancement by Silencio was also tested.
Have you ever wished you could see hundreds of yards ahead of you or hear sounds a great distance away with crystal clarity? Most of us have. With human augmentation technology advancing at an exponential rate, it is only a matter of time before these dreams become real. Already, technological advances have made certain human augmentations possible. The goal of this project was to discuss human augmentations that exist today and augmentations that could exist in the future. Also, this project determined through experimentation how well two augmentations that currently exist on the market today work.
The objective of this project was to document the state of current and possible future human augmentation technology and to discover how well current augmentations on the market work.
Artificial intelligence is the science and engineering of intelligent machines , and human augmentations fit this definition well because any highly functional human augmentation capable of granting superhuman capabilities needs to be an intelligent machine. Already, superhuman capabilities exist in 3D virtual worlds. Users of virtual worlds can literally fly around their environment, fall from great heights without feeling pain, and lift objects of immense size. In the real world, human augmentations of the future will need to be implantable and contain a network of sensors capable of readjusting to environmental conditions so that, as in ubiquitous computing, the devices will fit in the human environment instead of humans being forced into theirs.
Today, this can be seen in advanced bionic arm prosthetic technology, which not only allow users to regain normal functionality by being able to grasp objects and open doors, for instance, but also allow users to control the arm using only their minds, which includes adjusting grip strength just by thinking about it . Another example, hearing aid technology, is nowhere near as advanced as prosthetic arms. They are currently susceptible to environmental conditions, such as wind, and also need frequent volume readjustment, which currently have to be sent to a hearing aid specialist to readjust. In the future, this technology will advance to automatically adjust to environmental conditions and will have an automatic smart volume control. To accomplish this, though, a network of smart sensors will need to be implemented in the device. These are just two examples of the vast world of human augmentations, a world that will one day cease to consist of the mostly unintelligent devices of the present and help to fulfill the goals of pervasive computing.
2. Related Work
2.1 Key Technologies
Artificial intelligence - Artificial intelligence is the science and engineering of intelligent machines . It is a very broad area consisting of many fields, such as ontologies, neural networks, knowledge representation, game playing, and search methodologies. Limitations are speculated that machines can never be truly intelligence. In other words, strong AI may not be possible. Others believe that artificial intelligence has no limits and that machines will be capable of true intelligence.
Ubiquitous computing – Ubiquitous computing involves making machines fit into the human environment rather than forcing humans into theirs . Ubiquitous computing implies that the machines will be widespread and constantly encountered. Ubiquitous computing is limited in that it requires all devices to be intelligent and also requires a worldwide network of wireless sensors. Not only that, but machines must also have a universally accepted code that differentiates every instance of every device on the planet in order to be controlled by smart controllers.
Virtual worlds – “A virtual world is an online community that often takes the form of a computer-based simulated environment through which users can interact with one another and use and create objects.”  Virtual worlds often have three-dimensional avatars to represent users in the world. One limitation of virtual worlds is the requirement of downloading a virtual world browser onto a computer. Also, objects in the virtual environment are supposed to represent similar objects in the real world. Most objects in the virtual world, though, are severely limited in the ways you can interact with them.
2.2 Related Work
Research is currently being done in many areas of human augmentation to pave the way for a future where augmentation is a reality. For instance, neurophysiologist Samuel Deadwyler and biomedical engineer and neuroscientist Theodore Berger recently developed the first memory prosthetic device, which gives rats restored brain function and improved short-term memory retention . This is just a first step in the dream of improving human memory; nonetheless, it is a remarkable milestone. DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, recently invested $100 million in creating revolutionary prosthetic limbs . In that same area, scientists are working on creating a prosthetic arm that can feel . Moreover, scientists have also created a prosthetic arm that can be controlled by thought alone .
2.3 Related Class Projects
Our project on Human Augmentation relates to these other class projects:
Ontology – The project relates to ontologies because ontologies involve a great deal of research into their areas to be able to associate concepts concerning a specific domain. The Human Augmentation project required significant research into the augmentation domain.
Smart Devices – Smart devices make devices, people, pets, and all other things, smarter and easier to use. In other words, smart devices attempt to improve on existing technologies. Human augmentations attempt to do the same, but are specific to humans. Human augmentations improve human capabilities, much like smart devices improve device (and later, all other things) technology.
3. Human Augmentation Experiments
3.1 Silencio Super Ear Experiment
The volunteer wrote ten sentences, in which the observer was not privy. A distance was measured of 90 feet from the observer with no obstructions. At that distance away, while wearing the Silencio Super Ear personal sound amplifier, the observer listened as the volunteer spoke each sentence with a 30 second pause in between and recorded what he heard. The volunteer was asked to speak at a normal speaking volume. The sentences recorded by the observer were compared to the actual sentences written by the observer. The experiment was repeated for distances of 75 feet and 60 feet. From 0-50 feet, the observer could hear the volunteer accurately without the Silencio Super Ear. It is important to note that any obstruction of sound in front of the volunteer or behind or above the observer would distort the sound coming from the volunteer beyond recognition. Instead, all obstructions were cleared from the path between the observer and volunteer. An error calculation based on total words wrong/total words *100% possible was calculated for each distance, ignoring any tense errors, like was/is, and change of point of view, like your/my.
The results of these calculations show that, since the observer could hear the volunteer without the ear from 0-50 feet, a 10 foot increase in hearing was demonstrated with great accuracy. 92.31%. Also, a 25 foot increase in hearing was demonstrated with decent accuracy, 71.43% correct at a range of 75 feet from the observer. Therefore, even with problems with obstructions and interference, devices such as the Silencio Super Ear are a respectable step in human augmentation technology.
3.2 HD Aviators Experiment
A 250-watt bulb was placed above a piece of paper with a large sentence on it, written in Times New Roman 54pt font. The font was colored white with a black background. The volunteer attempted to read the sentence both without and with the HD Aviator glasses at a distance of 10 feet and a distance of 15 feet to the bulb.
The volunteer was not able to read the text from either distance with the HD Aviator glasses. At a distance of 15 feet, the volunteer was not able to read the text on the piece of paper. At a distance of 10 feet, the volunteer was able to read the words without the glasses, but not without. The volunteer did note that glare was reduced with the glasses but clarity of reading was not enhanced.
The HD Aviator glasses provided no enhanced reading capabilities. In fact, the experiment shows that the glasses reduced reading capabilities. Their primary function seems to be to reduce glare from the Sun and computer screens. Further experiments should be conducted on how well the glasses reduce glare.
4. Human Augmentation Progress
The idea of being able to see hundreds of times farther, have enhanced strength, and gain new abilities is on the horizon. Certain human augmentations already exist today, but most of these are used to repair malfunctions, such as hearing and vision correction and prosthetic limbs. Many more are used for cosmetic purposes, such as breast augmentation. There are three different types of human augmentations: those used to repair malfunctioning human parts, those used to modify existing parts, and those used to give brand new abilities to human beings. This project is entirely concerned with those augmentations that can be used to grant new human abilities. The current progress of human augmentations in the area of each human sense (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch), along with enhancements to the human brain and miscellaneous enhancements, is discussed next.
There has been little progress in the way of implantable human vision enhancements. There are many corrective surgeries available, such as PRK, Lasik, EpiLasek, and even a newly approved telescope that is implanted into the retina , but beyond basic corrective vision, there has been little work done to enhance human vision beyond human capabilities through implantable means. The only notable visual enhancement by an implantable device beyond normal vision was a side-effect of the way the Retina Implant AG was designed . The array of photodiodes actually allowed the patients to be sensitive to infrared light .
On the other hand, there are many external, non-implantable, devices that enhance vision beyond normal human capabilities. MIT created a new device that allows users to see moving objects through walls . The device is an 8.5 foot array of antennae arranged in two vertical rows, with eight signal receiving elements resting above thirteen signal transmitting elements . Though it cannot see at-rest objects, it is able to see moving objects from a range of 15 to 40 feet . Along the same lines of that project, DARPA is also working on extending the range of current see-through-wall technology past the eight meter maximum limit that has existed thus far .
There have been night vision devices utilized since World War II, but these have remarkably improved over time . Now, they are even capable of instantaneously adapting to changing light conditions . Binoculars provide telescopic vision to consumers and members of the military, alike. These devices have existed since the 17th century, when the first telescope was invented . The latest advancement in binocular technology is image-stabilization, which lowers the effects from shaking .
There have been numerous applications for helmet mounted displays (HMDs). Helmet mounted displays allow computer-generated images to be produced by the display and shown to the user . The purpose of HMDs is to show more information about an environment, such as distance to objects, than regular vision can display. Some of these devices show only computer-generated images, while others are capable of mixing real world images with computer-generated images . Though many of these devices are used to enhance the video game environment, the military has also been using them in aviation and paratroopers . One application for military use has been to display thermal imaging data of the wearer's surroundings .
In the future, vision augmentations could also include microscopic vision. Human eyes do not have the ability to zoom in on any object. The University of Washington has developed a contact lens that is capable of having electronics implanted in it . According to the project head, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Babak Parviz, “Using nanotechnology you can extend the sophistication of the contact lens as far as you like. There is interest in including cameras on the contact lens and incorporating other lenses so that, for example, if you were looking at something very small, you would be able to zoom in to get a closer look. Similarly, if something is far away, you would be able to zoom in.”  An update to this project has already shown a possible improvement in head-mounted displays, which would involve using contact lenses instead of HMDs . This could provide a much more adaptable solution for ground military units and intelligence agents. Instead of having to wear a bulky HMD, a user could wear a pair of small contact lenses that display information in real-time to them in front of their normal vision.
Vision augmentations today are mainly corrective in nature, but there are many wearable devices that enhance normal human vision, granting superhuman capabilities. With advancing technology in night vision, microscopic and telescopic vision, extending vision into more than just the visible light spectrum, heads-up display technology, and an exciting, new electronic contact lens that has numerous enhancement possibilities, it is only a matter of time before humans have bionic eyes. Vision isn't the only progress being made by human augmentation technology, though. Next, hearing augmentations will be discussed.
Corrective hearing aid technology has been available since the simple ear trumpet was used in the 1700s, though humans have used various objects available in nature, such as seashells, for correcting hearing problems for thousands of years . Now, hearing aids boast digital processing to maximize clarity . These devices are used for correction, though, not for super-hearing.
Several devices, such as the Bionic Ear and Booster Set by KJB Security, do claim to provide super-hearing capabilities . KJB Security claims their device is capable of enhancing sounds up to 100 yards way . A similar device, the Silencio Super Ear, was tested for this project, and the amplification of that device does grant a modest amount of super-hearing capabilities. Unfortunately, these devices are highly affected by environmental factors, such as wind speed, rain, and also by objects that obstruct the path of the device.
It would be nice to see further advancements in the area of super-hearing. There are a range of possibilities for future hearing augmentations. Focused hearing would grant humans the ability to focus closely on hearing one or several people or things while simultaneously eliminating the sounds any other person or object makes. Secure hearing would allow only the people you wish to hear you to be able to hear you . Granting the ability for humans to have selectable frequency cut-offs for hearing, such as when loud construction is going on, would also be a possibility . Unfortunately, devices available today, such as the Bionic Ear from KJB Security, are the only currently pursued target area for hearing augmentation. As this technology continues to improve, though, these devices will become small enough to be portable and concealable, or even become an implantable part of the human ear itself.
Dogs can see up to a thousand time better than humans, and are able to track things such as illegal drugs or escaped prisoners . The sense of smell has provided animals with a great way to “investigate the world”, but why not humans ? There is evidence that the human sense of smell degraded after the evolution of trichromatic vision, the ability to see red, green, and blue color spectrums . However, the olfactory genes that exist in animals still exist in humans today, but around 70% of those are not activated . If those genes could be activated, it is quite possible that people could be granted superhuman smelling capabilities.
Reactivating the inactive nasal genes are not the only possibility for augmenting human smell capabilities. The entire nasal pathway must be taken in consideration. In fact, there has already been one study done that changed the way the olfactory sensors sent signals to the brain by deleting “a subtype of voltage-gated potassium (Kv 1.3) channel in mice.” This resulted in the production of super-smelling mice, becoming 1,000-10,000 times more sensitive to odors .
Past the potential for enhancement, currently there are no augmentations that augment a human's sense of smell. The super-olfactory mice study holds potential for human development in the future, though. There is another technology that combines taste and smell to produce a false sensation, however, and the Meta Cookie shall be discussed in the next section on the sense of taste.
One of the most interesting taste augmentations discovered was created by a group of university students at Keio University created a device that uses a lollipop that, when plugged into an electronic sensor, can give different sensations back to the taster, such as fizzy soda, crisp apple, and even some very unusual sensations such as fireworks and airplane . The TagCandy device works by detecting that the user has inserted the lollipop into his or her mouth and sends vibrations back to the user to simulate the different sensations the user chooses . The device won two awards at the 2010 International Student Virtual Reality Contest, and future plans include being able to buy a candy from any local market and download different sensations to experience with the device .
Another very exciting taste augmentation found was Meta Cookie, which “uses virtual reality to make a cookie taste like anything you want.”  Meta Cookie consists of a head-mounted display device that contains many scented air flavors and an augmentation marker branded on a plain cookie . The HMD displays the look of any selected cookie instead of the plain cookie, depending on what augmented reality code was branded on the cookie . Along with that, the HMD device determines what scented air flavors to release to the wearer based on the augmented reality code . The wearer eats the plain cookie and fully believes it is another type of cookie. This could have many potential uses, such as making plain or distasteful foods taste like any food the wearer wishes.
With these innovations, it seems augmented reality holds the key to the future of taste augmentations. As devices get smaller over time, one can speculate that in the distant future, these sensors will be small enough to fit on the human tongue, or even implantable in the taste buds of the tongue. Thus, augmented taste reality today could become a commonplace human augmentation of the future.
Four senses have been discussed thus far: sight, hearing, smell, and taste. The final human sense is feeling. Many possibilities exist for augmenting touch. Skin could become more durable and able to withstand extreme temperatures without causing bodily harm. In the case of the superhero, Daredevil, superhuman touch granted superb reflexes, such as being able to easily land on a tightrope and run instead of walking very carefully across it. Healing through touch is something that has been explored since biblical times, with Jesus Christ said to have healed two blind men by touching their eyes .
Already, researchers are working on creating prosthetic limbs that can “feel what they touch” . Such technology can be used to return people missing limbs to full functionality. This technology can also provide haptic (sense of touch) feedback to surgeons using robots for surgery . By being able to feel what the robot touches, surgeons can operate more effectively without the need to operate on a patient in person. This method could not only be more accurate, but also prevent possible diseases and infection from human contamination. The technology could also be used for military units to control remote vehicles more precisely by being able to feel the way the vehicle is operating .
Aside from haptic feedback, NASA has been using spacesuits for decades that can withstand extreme temperatures, beyond the range of -250 to +250 degrees Fahrenheit . Spacesuits have to be made to handle the extreme cold temperatures of space and the extreme heat from the Sun. There are also heat-resistant work gloves that can handle up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit in short durations . In extreme cases, some gloves can be heated up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit for a short time .
These are not the advancements mentioned in comic books or in biblical references, such as improved flexibility and healing through touch; haptic feedback can provide a similar functionality to healing through touch by allowing surgeons increased precision and less chances of infection and disease, but it is not an instantaneous healing process. However, extreme temperature-handling provided by heat-resistant gloves and spacesuits and haptic feedback are important steps in the future of human skin augmentations that can lead to many more advancements. After having looked at the augmentations provided by the five senses of humans, it is now time to dive into one of the most exciting fields of human augmentation study, the improvement of the human brain.
4.7 Mental Capabilities
To this day, the mysterious gray matter that is the human brain has continued to baffle scientists. This makes the brain an exciting area of study, with each new scientific study producing profound new revelations. Many human augmentations could be related to the brain: never forgetting, telepathy, telekinesis, downloadable and implantable memories, and enhanced productivity .
The first of these, never forgetting, has been a work-in-progress for a long time now. Biomedical engineer and neuroscientist Ted Berger has been involved with improving human memory for over fifteen years . Recently, as mentioned in section 2.2 of this document, neurophysiologist Samuel Deadwyler and Berger developed the first memory prosthetic device, which gives rats restored brain function and improved short-term memory retention . The scientists created an artificial hippocampus, attached electrodes to the rats' brains, and had the rats press levers in a specific order . When the artificial hippocampus was turned on, the rats could remember which order they had pressed the levers . When turned off, they could not . The team is currently working on moving their research into primates, and are very hopeful for human testing . Charles Wilson, a neuroscientist and emeritus professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, believes, “the fact that it could be done in animals suggests to me that a similar thing could be done in humans.” 
Telepathy, also known as mind-control, is also a viable avenue currently being pursued by both the military and the video game industry. The military recently awarded $4 million to three universities to “begin developing 'thought helmets' that would harness silent brain waves for secure communication between troops.”  The ultimate goal of the program is to have “direct mental control of military systems by thought alone.”  The video game industry is also working on mind-control. In fact, Emotiv has already released a mind-control device that “uses a set of sensors to tune into electric signals produced by the brain to detect player thoughts, feelings and expressions and connects wirelessly to most PCs.”  The purpose of the Emotiv is to allow users to control games and applications using only their minds. This augmentation is currently available on the market for consumers for $299 and for developers for $500 .
Telekinesis is the ability to move objects with your mind. Today, telekinesis exists in prosthetic limbs that can be controlled using only the brain . However, that technology requires the device to be attached to the user's nerves in order to work. With the development of smart technology, however, this may be a limitation that is soon overcome. Smart devices, unlike regular devices such as toasters, coffee makers, microwaves, and washing machines, are able to be controlled using a smart controller which is able to access all of the device's features and control every smart device instead of only one device. It is quite feasible that a universal smart controller in the future could be implanted in the brain to control every smart device the user has security privileges to control using only his or her mind. In this way, telekinesis could become more than just science fiction. It, very well, could one day become a reality.
The same technology that the military seeks with telekinesis could also allow for downloadable memories. Currently, this technology does not exist, but the technology to receive brain waves does. When science has unraveled more of the mysteries of the human brain, such as exactly how memory works, the thought helmets sought out by the military could take brain waves produced when a person is remembering something and download these to a computer. There could also be new technology that would simply scan a person's brain for all memories and download them to a computer. Implanting them would require more of the type of technology that the conceptual implantable smart controller would contain. If the smart controller could also receive signals instead of just sending them out, it could interact with memory and store new memories. Being able to control many smart devices at once could also enhance productivity. A single cashier could scan all smart items customers are purchasing at every register simultaneously, for instance. If someone tried to steal from the store, the cashier could automatically lock the smart exit doors and call the police without ever touching a door or a phone.
The brain is an exciting area of study because so little is known about the way the brain works, and each discovery is, literally, a revelation. There are numerous technologies that make use of the knowledge we do have, and many possibilities exist for brain enhancements in the future. So far, augmentations affecting the five human senses and the human brain have been discussed. There are several miscellaneous human augmentations that could prove to be just as useful, however.
The demand for blood replacement currently exceeds the rate of donations . Artificial blood could mean less chance of infection, longer storage life, less to no need from donors, and immediately available full oxygen transport . Moreover, patients that need blood immediately, such as heart transplant and bypass patients, would have a “guaranteed supply of blood on hand.”  Very recently, scientists have been successful in creating artificial blood from stem cells and believe it could be used in transfusions the next two years . Within two decades, after several series of large-scale trials, artificial blood could be made in enough quantity to meet an entire nation's demands, 2 million pints per year .
Along with artificial blood, nanoparticles inserted into the bloodstream yield the potential to destroy drug-resistant bacteria without destroying red blood cells . Unlike traditional antibiotics, “these nanostructures are physically attracted to infected cells like a magnet, allowing them to selectively eradicate difficult to treat bacteria without destroying healthy cells around them.”  Furthermore, “the nanoparticles also prevent the bacteria from developing drug resistance by breaking through the cell wall and membrane.” 
Making human bones less brittle using different, stronger, materials would be a terrific augmentation, but replacing the entire skeleton with new, stronger material bone would be extraordinarily difficult and extremely painful. Current bone augmentation technology is focused upon the creation of new bone to repair old bones. A modified inkjet printer has been used to produce artificial bones . The technology works in a four step process. First, a “scan creates a precise image of the damaged area.”  Next, “a three-dimensional image of the bone to be made is sent to a computer linked to the printer.”  Then, “an accurate model of the bone is created by inkjet-style technology. Layers of cement-like powder one tenth of a millimeter thick are hardened by acid into the precise shape required.”  Finally, “the bone graft acts as a bridge to allow the body to regrow new bone. The graft will eventually dissolve into the body.”  Current bone replacement involves metals and ceramics. The new bone graft technology would allow users to produce their own bones. This process is a long way from being available in hospitals, though .
Another technology being used to replace metals and ceramics is wood . Live bones would heal faster with wood bone substitutes than with ceramics . Live bones would also grow more quickly into the bone substitutes and be more secure . Ceramics also put added stress on bones since they are much harder than the surrounding bone, which may lead to breaking down the surrounding bone until they break. Wood substitutes, which are significantly softer than ceramics and metals, would put less stress on the surrounding bones, potentially causing fewer broken bones .
There are many augmentations available today and many more that are in the works for tomorrow. Sometimes, infomercials, such as ones for augmentations like KJB Security's Bionic Ear, result in good products. Though not tested, the Silencio Super Ear is similar to the Bionic Ear and is assumed to have similar to even better results with the technology advances that have been gained since the Silencio was created. Other times, such as in the case of the HD Aviator glasses, the manufacturer claims are highly exaggerated. Experimenting is a good way to find out one way or another. With so many exciting developments occurring in the human augmentation field, whatever the near future brings, it looks like an exciting time to be a human. Whatever the distant future brings, it looks like an exciting time to become a superhuman.
5.2 Potential Impact
The project provides a good look at the state of human augmentation technology. With knowledge of where things are in the field of human augmentations, it has the potential impact of determining what avenues of research to pursue in the future and how close we are to having human augmentations available. It also determined how well two augmentations that already exist on the market work. With that knowledge, the project can provide insight into how well these particular areas of human enhancements have progressed.
5.3 Future Work
One of the future areas of work for this project would be to test better quality enhancement technologies available on the market today and compare them to the ones already tested. Also, there were many augmentation areas covered by this project, but there are always more areas to pursue. There could be many more augmentation technologies that exist or that will exist that were not pursued by this project and need to be further researched to determine the state of that area. With one researcher, it is easy to miss areas of interest. Several more researchers could add to this project with more research on the areas pursued and research into those areas of human augmentation not pursued.
Chad Richards – Richards is a senior Computer Engineering major in the Computer Science and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He has completed relevant courses in algorithms and virtual worlds. He has been a professional web designer for the past five years, with experience in various scripting and database languages. In his design job, he has also created several web applications, requiring the use of programming languages such as C, C++, and Java and scripting languages such as Flash Actionscript, SQL, and PHP. He has also recently undergone corrective eye surgery, giving him first-hand experience into what human augmentation can be like. In the Human Augmentation project, he was responsible for researching and documenting human augmentation technology and setting up and performing experiments to test current human augmentation technology. In order to obtain ideas of where augmentation technology may go in the future, the type of augmentation technology tested was decided to be those that claim to give superhuman capabilities.
Dr. Craig Thompson, Mentor – Thompson is a professor in the Computer Science and Computer Engineering Department. He leads the Everything is Alive research project that is currently focusing on how to simulate pervasive computing using 3D virtual worlds. See http://vw.ddns.uark.edu.
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Appendix A – Deliverables Manifest
TERM PROJECT FINAL REPORT—Human Augmentation—Richards.zip contains:
TERM PROJECT FINAL REPORT—Human Augmentation—Richards.doc contains this document, the final report for the term project.
TERM PROJECT FINAL REPORT—Human Augmentation—Richards.ppt contains the powerpoint presentation for the term project.