Human Augmentation Through 6G Network

Last year I got an opportunity to contribute a guest post titled, 'The Rise of Human 2.0' on 6G World. Quoting from the introduction of that article:

It has long been a dream for humans to incorporate tech and gadgets within the human body. While humans in this state are often referred to as cyborgs, that term seems to be going out of fashion. This may be because of the plethora of stories about killer cyborgs that scare us into thinking we don’t want to be one of them.

Another term that has been around for a while is ‘Transhuman’, which indicates that the person resembles a human, but has powers or abilities beyond that of a human. While Transhumans can be Cyborgs, they could also be genetically enhanced humans. With the current state of technology development, Transhumanism seems very far away.

Another term that I feel is more appropriate is ‘Machine Augmented Humans’, which is generally referred to in literature as Human Augmentation or Human 2.0.

In my 6G news and announcements summary from MWC 2023, I briefly wrote about NTT Docomo's vision of Human Augmentation. Their press release in January explained this nicely:

The FEEL TECH system, which DOCOMO believes is the world's first to share haptic information, comprises a device that detects a person's sensory state, a "driving" device that physically reproduces the same state in another person, and the human-augmentation platform that shares the information between devices connected to a network. Haptic information is quantified in terms of human-touch vibrations measured with a device similar to a Piezoelectric sensor. The vibrations are reproduced with a driving device, such as a transducer that vibrates when electricity is applied. Haptic sensations and corresponding video images are shared from one person ("presenter") to another person ("target"). To achieve crucial synchronization of the haptic and video data being shared, the platform is expected eventually to make full use of the ultra-low latency that will be offered in forthcoming 6G mobile networks.

The human-augmentation platform is also notable for its capacity to learn the physical characteristics of each target person and then adjust the presenter's haptic information (degree of strength, etc.) so that the target can perceive the information easily and clearly. Furthermore, the platform can record the presenter's sense of touch and share it with the target over time.

The platform can share haptic information between diverse people and device and across time. For example, an amateur craftsman could use the system to grasp the subtle techniques of a master craftsman, or individuals could use it to haptically recall sensations, etc. they experienced at a younger age.

The system will make it possible to share sensations that conventionally have been difficult, if not impossible, to convey through images, sound, text or words alone. Accordingly, the system is expected to find practical applications in fields that rely on human senses, such as medicine and art. Also, shoppers on e-commerce sites could use it to experience the subtle feel of clothing fabrics, among other rich experiences not possible using other advanced technologies such as 3D or augmented reality.

You can read the complete press release here.

In a recent 6G Flagship webinar, Nakamura-san from NTT Docomo explained the 6G activities in Japan including the Beyond 5G Promotion Consortium 6G whitepaper as well as NTT Docomo's 6G whitepaper. You can watch the complete webinar on YouTube here. Embedded below is the selective clip explaining the human augmentation part: 

The following are some interesting external links on the topic:

  • 6G World Guest Post: The Rise of Human 2.0 (link)
  • Japan's B5GPC 6G whitepaper and slides in English (link) - latest version 2.0, March 2023.
  • NTT Docomo's 6G whitepaper in English (link) - latest version 5.0, January 2023.
  • Hybrid Humans by Harry Parker (The Guardian, Daily Mail, YouTube)
  • IEEE Spectrum: Artificial Muscles Woven Into Smart Textiles Could Make Clothing Hyperfunctional - Gird yourself for muscle shirts that twitch (link)

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