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The Future Is Now: Cyborgs Among Us

Once upon a time, Cyborgs only existed in the imaginaries created by our favorite science fiction writers and directors. That can no longer be said today. Indeed, sophisticated part-human, part-machine configurations are no longer confined to the page or film reel: they’re here now.
While real-life “cyborgs” are admittedly rare, we can only anticipate that over time technological enhancements will become more commonplace. Without further ado, here are some of the “cyborgs” living today and those pioneering the movement.

Neil Harbisson
British artist Neil Harbisson is the world’s first governmentally recognized cyborg. Born with an extreme color blindness known as achromatopsia, in 2004 Harbisson had an antenna permanently implanted in his brain which allows him to perceive colors as sound, and is now capable of experiencing colors beyond the human range of perception.

“At the start, I had to memorize the names you give to each color and the notes, but after some time, all this information became a perception,” said Harbisson in a recent TED talk. “When I started to dream in color, I felt the software and my brain had united.”

Harbisson’s remarks are closer to the truth than you might initially believe: since having the device implanted, Harbisson’s brain has produced new neural pathways to enhance his interaction with the Wi-Fi enabled device. Harbisson is also the founder of the Cyborg Foundation, which strives to assist others in their dreams of becoming a cyborg.


Kevin Warwick
For British cybernetics professor Kevin Warwick, work truly is life. Since 1998, Warwick has been experimenting with implants on himself and is determined to become the world’s “most complete cyborg.” Fittingly, Warwick is the founder of Project Cyborg.


Warwick’s first implant, a microchip in his arms, allows him to open doors and operate thermostats simply by moving from room to room. In the future, Warwick hopes to implant a chip into his wife and explore how emotional, cognitive and movement signals can be sent from person to person, possibly via an internet link.


Jesse Sullivan
Jesse Sullivan is helping pioneer the movement to use cybernetic technology for amputees. In 2001, Sullivan became one of the world’s earliest cyborgs when he was fitted with a bionic arm through implementation of a nerve-muscle graft.


Sullivan is able to fully control his bionic limb through brainwaves, but the fact that Sullivan can control the amount of pressure that his new hand puts on objects–and even perceive hot and cold temperatures through the artificial extremity–make the arm all the more incredible.

Due in part to Sullivan’s success with his bionic arm, more and more amputees are being equipped with increasingly functional synthetic limbs. Sullivan–along with others–envisions a day when all amputees (and those born missing extremities) will be able to be fitted with these amazing robotic limbs.


Claudia Mitchell
Claudia Mitchell holds the distinction of being recognized as the first female cyborg. Mitchell, who lost her arm in a motorcycle accident, gained this title upon being fitted with a robotic arm, which is very similar to the one belonging to Jesse Sullivan.


Mitchell’s cybernetic implant allows her to perform many daily tasks that most of us take for granted. Through brain impulses Claudia has the precise control needed to fold delicate laundry, create and cook meals, and countless other intricate operations that with only a synthetic limb, she would not have been able to do.


Nigel Ackland
Nigel Ackland’s robotic arm is truly the closest thing to Terminator we have. With full range of motion in all five fingers, wrist, and elbow, the dexterity and flexibility that Ackland possesses is nothing short of astonishing.


Though he lost a significant portion of his arm in a work accident, Ackland still had enough forearm remaining to control his new appendage via muscle movement.

Watch Ackland demonstrate the abilities of his robotic arm in the video below:


Cameron Clapp is an accomplished athlete, motivational speaker, actor–and a triple amputee.

Clapp lost three of his limbs in 2001, after drinking too much at a September 11th memorial led him to pass out on train tracks, where he was later hit.

With an ever evolving group of synthetic limbs, Clapp actually owns three distinct pairs of prosthetic legs: one for walking, one for running, and one for swimming. An avid surfer with bleach blond hair and athletic build, Clapp has often been referred to as the “Quintessential California teen,” but that title seems to sell the 29 year old short.


An advocate and activist for the amputee community, Clapp has become a role model to amputees of all ages. Given Clapp’s age, he has a special connection with young amputee victims.


Jerry Jalava
Jerry Jalava proves that joining the cyborg ranks doesn’t require excessive spending on hi-tech devices; it can actually be DIY.


When Jalava, a computer engineer, lost part of his finger in a 2009 motorcycle accident, he had the idea to add a 2 GB USB hard drive into a prosthetic finger. Though it does not do anything as impressive as uploading information directly into his cerebral cortex, as seen in the video below, it proved a lot more useful than a piece of silicone.


By Erin Kelly | All that is interesting

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