People-cyborgs among us: the era of super-opportunities

© Fotolia / vchalup

Valery Spiridonov, for RIA News

Valery Spiridonov  talks about why people have always tried to give themselves “extra” limbs and how the development of augmentation technologies can turn not only the economy, but the whole life of a person.

From Ancient Egypt to modern Japan

Since the birth of civilization, mankind has been striving to improve the standard of living and expand the capabilities of the human body. People tried to compensate for limited physical data with special devices.

The history of prosthetics dates back to the times of Ancient Egypt. The mummy, preserved since that time, was found a prosthesis of the big toe. Manufactured about three thousand years ago, an artificial finger was attached to the foot by a leather clutch and helped maintain stability when walking.

© Photo : University of Basel/LHTT, Matjaž Kačičnik

Prosthetic foot, made for the daughter of an ancient Egyptian priest about three thousand years ago

And in 2001, at the excavations in Sakkara, they found a prosthetic hand with leather straps for attachment to the body. The device was manufactured in the late XXVII century BC and was used as a functional prosthesis. When the left knee was bent, the elbow bent, and when the body was turned in different directions, the wrist was squeezed and unclenched.

© AP Photo / Julie Jacobson

Ancient Egyptian bas-reliefs also often contain images of dentists with tongs. A classic image of a pirate is a man with a wooden leg and often with an iron hook instead of a hand. The hook had advantages in close combat and was one of the first examples of bionic amplification.

Nevertheless, the first leg and hand prostheses, as well as dental implants, were more of a mockery. They did not allow full recovery of the physical capacity of a person.

Human augmentation creates supermen

To date, limb prosthetics, the installation of pacemakers, hearing aids and dental implants have entered into broad medical practice.

With the development of technologies, a new type of prosthetics appeared – augmentation. Augmentation means not just the replacement of a lost organ, but also the acquisition of supernormal abilities previously uncommon in human beings.

© RIA News / Cyril Kallinikov

Carlson, Superman, Spider-Man, Terminator, Fantastic Four are fantastic comic books, movies and tales about people with unusual abilities, today are embodied in reality.

And many people do not even think that the time of terminators has already come and cyborg people have become a part of our society.

A separate direction for the development of high technologies, combining medicine and robotics, was also formed-biomechatronics.

Cybernetic hands

Prosthesis of human hands is far from a full replacement of them by the volume of the function.

© RIA Novosti / Vladimir Trefilov

Bionic prosthesis of the upper limbs

Modern bionic prostheses are set in motion by reading the electric potential of the stump muscles when they are reduced by means of electrical voltage sensors. Thus, the hand is squeezed and unclenched. But it is almost impossible to carry out movements that require special accuracy, for example, to take coins in hand.

The main companies that produce similar bionic prostheses in Russia are Maxbionic and Motorica.

© RIA Novosti / Kirill Kallinikov

The most advanced arm prosthesis Luca Arm was developed by Mibius Bionic, commissioned by DARPA, a US defense development agency. The prosthesis reads and recognizes signals from electromyographic electrodes adjacent to the muscles for performing certain commands. Equipped with various settings the device allows you to work with fragile and heavy objects, as well as perform complex actions, for example, brushing your teeth.

However, existing hand prosthes are designed to partially replace lost functions and are not yet endowed with cyberopathy.

Legs of a cyborg

Bionic leg prostheses, in addition to the motor function, must provide effective cushioning. These engineering tasks were decided at the American University of Vanderbilt in Nashville. The prosthesis created consists of sensors that determine the position of the foot in space and the motors that move. At the battery charge, the artificial leg is able to work up to three days.

© RIA Novosti / Kirill Kallinikov

It allows you to sit down and get up, and also walk the stairs.


Professor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Hugh Herr invented alternative prostheses Power Foot. He lost both legs and tested prostheses on himself. Their feature in the ability to simulate the pressure of the human leg and amortize walking. Cybernags are much lighter than their own, at the same time they can withstand loads of up to 130 kilograms, allow dancing, running, climbing the tops, catching brain signals. In addition, these limbs are equipped with sensors that analyze the surface of the road.


The functionally extended version of prostheses of the lower limbs are exoskeletons. The largest manufacturers of exoskeletons are Indeo in the USA, ReWalk in Israel, Hybrid Assistive Limb and Ekso Bionic in Japan. The approximate cost of an exoskeleton is from 75 to 120 thousand euros. Projects on the development of exoskeletons are also being conducted in other countries.

The team of robotics of Russia “Exoat” creates its analogues of exoskeletons from 2011. ExoAtlet I is intended for use in clinics. It is equipped with a wide range of possibilities due to the computer control system, sensors and the option of stimulation of muscles by means of electrical impulses.

In the medical centers of Russia, the company tests free rehabilitation programs for patients with limb disorders after injuries and various diseases with the help of ExoAtlet I.

© RIA Novosti / Grigory Sysoev

Demonstration of exoskeleton application for rehabilitation of ExoAtlet I in Moscow

The device for home use is designed for automatic walking and will serve as a partial replacement for a wheelchair.

© Foto : BrainGate

The exoskeleton Rex Bionics, represented by a company from New Zealand, allows people with paralyzed lower extremities to walk independently while leaving their hands free.

The device is activated with a joystick, has a small weight for a similar design, about 38 kilograms, and withstands a user with a mass of up to 100 kilograms.

Superman or Carlson? It is all about a suit

An example of an exoskeleton that gives a man superpowers is XOS 2 from the American company Raytheon. This is robo-suit, allowing you to lift the weight in two or three times more than an ordinary person can lift.

Such inventions are most often used in military and reconnaissance structures, but they can be used in construction, as well as in heavy physical work to reduce the burden on the spine and muscles.

Another company, Trek Aerospace, endowed the exoskeleton with flying functions. The built-in jet engine will allow the device to gain speed at flight up to 112 kilometers per hour and immovably hover in the air. Fly, overtaking traffic jams and not stopping at traffic lights, probably, many would like now. And with this speed, of course, it’s better to have cyber-sight.


There are many projects to create eye implants, which allow full compensation for lost vision.

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Bionic eyes of the German company Alpha IMS, perhaps the most interesting of those devices that have already passed clinical trials. The prosthesis includes 1500 electrodes placed under the retina. Currently, the technology makes it possible to distinguish people’s faces and read large enough inscriptions.

Most of all, the developers of Ocumetics Technology, who created bionic lenses, were able to approach the function of eye cyber-protezes. Bionic Lens replace natural lenses by cataract surgery.

Lenses have dynamic properties: connecting with the muscles of the eye, they self-focus at different distances. Thanks to lenses, visual acuity will rise to 30 meters, and at short distances a person will be able to see more than a microscope.

© Photo : Second Sight Medical Products, Inc.

One of the unique advantages of these cyberlins is that a person uses a bionic lens a hundred times less energy than using his own eye. And accordingly, does not feel tired after hard work. The next couple of years the company plans to launch a mass production of lenses.

A further upgrade of the device is planned. In the future, the interface of the smartphone will be displayed on the retina of the eye and a direct supply of drugs will be provided. In connection with the improvement of prosthetic technology, such operations have also become very popular among people without restrictions.

Experimental augmentation

Is it worth it for a person who does not have physical limitations to install a cyberryplant to acquire new abilities?

Above this, adherents of cyber technologies hardly think seriously, but there are daredevils who voluntarily install implants that are not of particular value or are questionably useful.

© RIA Novosti / Kirill Kallinikov

Competition of people with disabilities “Kibatlon” in Moscow

Sleight of hand or chip breaking

Evoked interest appeared smart cybertatoes with electrodes Tech Tats. They are able to measure pressure, body temperature. It is planned to expand the functions of the device to a partial replacement of the smartphone. When applied to the throat, the tattoo can be used as a microphone. But why implant cyberimpplant in the body, if such functions are handled by a phone and a fitness bracelet?

There was a whole culture of people-biohackers, with interest experimenting with augmentation of their own body.

© Fotolia / vetkit

So, a new application received RFID chips – RFID chips. They are involved in many areas of daily life and are present in all travel tickets in the subway and in stickers on goods in the store.

The brave man named Amal Graafstra decided to expand their use by inserting one chip into each hand. With their help, he easily opens the doors of the house, car and enters his accounts in the global network.

Another example: a resourceful Finnish programmer who lost a finger as a result of the accident, replaced it with a flash drive with a capacity of two gigabytes. Externally, the implant looks like a prosthesis of the finger, and when you remove the cover, a convenient flash device appears, which is not lost and is always at hand.

In the name of the law

At present, the implantation of chips or other devices in the human body is not legally regulated in Russia and most other countries. At the moment, such procedures are still equated with piercing.

Nevertheless biochips are already widely used in some foreign companies as corporate magnetic passes, allowing to increase the level of safety.


But even minimal augmentation can cause a number of side effects. For example, when a magnetic chip comes into contact with another magnet, the implant starts to spin under the skin, delivering painful sensations. And when using the technique, the finger with the chip can start to vibrate. And of course, allergic reactions and rejection of the implant are possible. In addition, any augmentation makes it difficult to diagnose the body, since it excludes the possibility of tomography.

Despite this, there are obvious advantages of cyborgization. Many technologies of cyber-prosthetics are unique in matters of domestic and international security. And their practical application every year becomes more accessible to the broad masses.

The variety of cyprostheses allows you to compensate for physical limitations, and also to experience a completely different level of possibilities. The ability to perceive one’s own body as a functional organism used to solve a number of problems creates a generation of cyborg people with new values and ideas about life.