Humans’ relationship with technology is growing ever-more intimate. In a sense, we have already become cyborgs, tethered to our external electronic devices, outsourcing to them our memories, our sense of direction, our socialising, our lives. But, if the past year’s technological advancements are any indication, our relationship with technology is going to get a whole lot closer. Technology could one day soon become regularly integrated with our biology to manage disease and augment human ability. Here were some of the biggest breakthroughs of the past year on the cyborg front.
An implant gave humans a sixth sense
North Sense. IMAGE: Cyborg Nest
released North Sensetold the Creator’s Projectmany such undertakingscan be yours
Scientists created an artificial ‘pancreas’ to regulate diabetes
Medtronic’s artificial pancreas. IMAGE: Medtronic
approved the first ever “artificial pancreas,”
A 25-year-old lived for over a year with a bionic heart
Stan Larkin needed a heart transplant, and his wait-time on the transplant list was longer than the time it would take his heart to fail his body. So in December 2014, his heart was removed and he became the first patient in Michigan to be outfitted with the SynCardia Freedom Portable Driver, a 6kg machine that uses compressed air to pump blood through the body. He carried his artificial heart around for a year-and-a-half, until a transplant organ was ready this past May. He even played a game pickup basketball with his bionic heart.
A mouse with a human ear implant proved 3D-printing organs is totally possible
Ears, ready for transplant. IMAGE: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine
scientists announcedresearchers at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine
A brain chip allowed a paralysed man to feel again
President Barack Obama with Nathan Copeland, who can feel despite paralysis. IMAGE: AP Images
he fist-bumped President Barack ObamaWhite House Frontiers Conference
Smart tattoos became a thing. Sort of.
Getting inked is the latest trend in wearables. This year, electronic temporary tattoo upstarts were popping up everywhere. There was the temporary tattoo built to warn people when they have had too much to drink. The stick-on to measure UV ray exposure. The cardiac monitor. And these really pretty metallic ‘smart’ tattoos from MIT that can remotely control a smartphone. Electronic tattoos haven’t quite become a fashion staple, but one day perhaps we’ll all be caressing our forearm in order to send a text.
The golden state warriors got super into brain zapping
— James Michael McAdoo (@jamesmcadoo) March 16, 2016
Always seeking to get a leg up on the competition, there are few as eager to turn themselves into guinea pigs of technology as professional athletes. Last season, Oakland’s Golden State Warriors found their edge in transcranial direct-current stimulation, donning headphones that deliver pulses of electric current to the brain to improve the brain’s signalling ability, and they hoped, their game. The full extent of tDCS’ impact is debatable, but other teams are already jumping on board. With the Warrior’s track record, it’s likely other teams will soon turn to tech to augment their abilities. Then again, the Warriors did lose the Finals last season.