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10 Real-life Human Cyborgs You Probably Didn't Know About

10 Real-life Human Cyborgs You Probably Didn't Know About
A cyborg refers to a being composed of organic as well as biomechatronic parts. While most of us are familiar with cyborgs in popular literature and music, and think of them as a thing of the future, quite a few human cyborgs do exist presently. They are listed out in this article.
Komal B. Patil
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
"The biggest challenge for cyborgs is to be socially accepted. Society needs to accept that there are people who wish to use technology as part of the body."
―Neil Harbisson
When we talk about cyborgs, one imagines mechanically enhanced men with mind-blowing superpowers. While that is how cyborgs are depicted in the genre of science fiction, the truth is slightly different. In reality, human cyborgs are just humans with mechanically advanced biomechatronics that help them in carrying out various daily activities. The term biomechatronics refers to an applied field of interdisciplinary science that involves the amalgamation of aspects of biology, mechanics, electronics, neuroscience, and even robotics. However, biomechatronic cyborgs must not be confused with the concept of bionics, which is basically the implementation of natural biological methods and systems to study, design, and engineer mechanical, electrical, or robotic systems.

Presently, human cyborgs refers to individuals who have been fitted with mechanical modifications that operate via a synthetic stimuli feedback mechanism, as seen in normal biological beings. This type of mechanism refers to the ability of the mechanical component to receive and respond to the electric impulses and other stimuli generated in the body. It must also be capable of sending accurate and relevant impulses and stimuli to the person's nervous system. Hence, any human outfitted with such a device, irrespective of its function, location, and size, would render the individual a cyborg. The vast scope of the interpretation of this concept includes anything and everything, between people with cochlear implants or cardiac pacemakers to people with fully mechanical artificial prosthetic limbs.

One must note, however, that despite the fact that this technology is now a reality, it is still unrefined and imperfect. Hence, resultant human cyborgs are fairly uncommon. The ones that do exist are listed here.
10 Real-life Human Cyborgs
Name: Kevin Warwick
Cyborg Element: Silicon RFID chip implant

Being a cybernetics professor himself, Warwick has always been enthusiastic about bridging the gap between humans and machines. He currently heads a project to that end, at the University of Reading, UK. The RFID (radio frequency ID) chip that resulted from this project was voluntarily implanted into his arm, and allows him to turn on lights, heaters, computers, and open doors by simply walking by a sensor. He envisions that, in the future, these chips could be implanted in everyone, and could carry essential information, including medical records, blood type, and credit card details. Kevin Warwick is also famous for his experiment Project Cyborg 2.0 in 2002, where he linked his and his wife's nervous systems via a computer, allowing them to communicate telepathically. The electrodes attached to them allowed the movements of one to be felt by the other. He aims for such a form of communication to become the norm in the near future.
Name: Steve Mann
Cyborg Element: Wearable computer implant

Steve Mann, a professor at the University of Toronto, is a self-proclaimed 'world's first cyborg'. His work focuses on developing wearable computer technology, not very different from the Google glass technology. Mann's technology, consisting of a headset that is known as EyeTap technology, has been implanted onto his head (like a visor) and connected to his brain. This wearable computing device acts as a camera as well as a display, allowing Mann to not only augment the image seen by him but also to visualize and overlay the image with computer generated information. The closest approximation of the overall function can be likened to the spy glasses featured in numerous movies and comics, that are able to identify and analyze visual data, and provide information. The headset allows Steve Mann to record and play audio as well as video. This technology could be used as a potential tool to restore vision in visually disabled individuals.
Name: Neil Harbisson
Cyborg Element: Antenna implant

Neil Harbisson is a contemporary artist suffering from achromatopsia, or extreme colorblindness, which results in him visualizing the world in black-and-white. To overcome this disability, he was the first person to have an antenna implanted in his skull. This antenna allows him to perceive colors of the visible as well as the invisible spectrum (infrared and ultraviolet) as audible vibrations in the skull. It also enables him to send images, videos, music, or even phone calls directly into his head. Since the antenna is Wi-Fi enabled, it is also possible for Neil Harbisson to receive satellite signals, allowing him to hear extraterrestrial colors. He is often described as the world's first cyborg artist. He is a cyborg activist who has established the cyborg foundation with the aim of aiding people in becoming cyborgs.
Name: Jesse Sullivan
Cyborg Element: Bionic upper limbs

As a result of an accidental contact with an electric wire in 2001, Jesse Sullivan, an electrician by profession, suffered considerable damage to his upper limbs. This extensive damage led to his arms being amputated at the shoulders. To compensate the loss of his arms, he was fitted with bionic prostheses provided by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, making him the first non-fictional cyborg. Unlike other prostheses that involve pull cables and nub switches to function, these advanced bionic arms rely on nerve impulses and neural signals received by it. This is possible since the synthetic limbs were attached to his torso via a nerve muscle graft at the amputation site. Sullivan can not only use and control these arms with his mind, but can also feel the temperature of objects as well as the pressure of his grip on the object he is holding.
Name: Jens Naumann
Cyborg Element: Artificial vision system

Following a series of gruesome mishaps and accidents, Jens Naumann was rendered blind in both eyes. In 2002, he was fitted with an electronic eye that would help him see again. This made him the first person to be fitted with an artificial vision system. The system consists of an camera mounted on a pair of glasses. The camera is connected to his visual cortex via brain implants. Unlike other cyborgs, which translate visual data to other sensory data such as sound or touch, this technology allows Naumann to actually visualize the world. However, the technology is still being perfected, and hence, has certain limitations, causing him to see lines and shapes vaguely. But it is possible that, in the future, with advances in this technology, he may be able to perceive the world at a better resolution. This technology also has the potential conferring upon future individuals the ability to visualize infrared wavelengths, and also to possess night vision.
Name: Nigel Ackland
Cyborg Element: Bionic arm
Nigel Ackland lost a part of his right arm in a work accident. He was later fitted with an advanced robotic prosthetic arm that is operated by muscle movements in his remaining forearm. He is able to use the arm to carry out a wide range of activities. He can move each individual finger and adjust finger grip to hold delicate objects. He can also pour liquids with the arm. For all intents and purposes, his arm carries out each action as well as his normal hand. In reference to his bionic prosthetic, he has been reported as saying that, "Having a bionic hand is like being human again. Psychologically I wouldn't be without it. I can hold the phone, shake hands, and wash my left hand normally. The bionic arm has a great impact on my life: not only does it look more like a human hand, but it also functions more like a human hand."
Name: Jerry Jalava
Cyborg Element: USB port in prosthetic finger

Jerry Jalava's claim to cyborg status is perhaps not as strong as the others in the category, but he proves that one doesn't necessarily need advanced robotics to be deemed cybernetic. After losing one of his fingers in a motorbike accident, he decided that his synthetic finger prosthetic was a bit lacking. To that end, he adapted the prosthetic by embedding a 2GB USB drive into it. While the drive does not have any extra function, or any links to the brain for direct upload of data, it does considerably increase the usefulness of his prosthetic finger.
Name: Claudia Mitchell
Cyborg Element: Bionic arm

She became the first woman to become a cyborg, when a bionic arm was attached to her shoulder. This arm is quite similar to the arm fitted to fellow cyborg Jesse Sullivan, and is connected to her nervous system, allowing her to control its movements with her mind. The range of motion afforded by the arm is extraordinary, allowing her to be able to carry out daily tasks (including cooking and other household chores) with ease.
Name: Cameron Clapp
Cyborg Element: Prosthetic legs

Due to a mishap at the age of 14, when he fainted along a railroad track, he lost both his legs and an arm when a train passed by. He was latter fitted with prosthetic legs and an arm that function via microprocessors. Signals from the brain and nerve impulses from the amputation site are received by the microprocessors, which then bring about the necessary movement. He has since then spent time learning how to play various sports with his prosthetic limbs, and also working with other amputees. His efforts have led to him becoming a gold medalist in the Endeavor games, and also to becoming an inspirational figure for all those who are physically handicapped.
Name: Stelios Arcadiou
Cyborg Element: Cell-cultivated ear implant

Australian performance artist Stelios Arcadiou, better known as Stelarc, is an individual highly interested in expanding the capabilities of the human body and mind. His performances often include the use of technology and robotics integrated with his own body. He is famous for a performance where he connected his body via electrodes to the Internet, thereby allowing random Internet users control his muscle movements. In 2007, he had a stem cell-cultivated ear surgically implanted onto his left forearm. He plans on fitting the ear with transmitters and linking it to his brain, so as to make it a fully-functional hearing ear.
In conclusion, according to the definition of cyborgs, any individual that possesses a mechanical implant can be considered a cyborg. Hence, people with cochlear implants, pacemakers, and other such devices can be considered cyborgs. The development of such technology allows one to envision a future where all human disorders can be overcome with the help of biomechatronics, giving rise to the evolution of humans as cybernetic beings.