Research and development has undergone rapid advances in a field previously thought to only be possible in science fiction: the use of technology to enhance and expand human ability. In recent years, such technology and the underlying academic discipline that seeks to comprehensively explore humanity have become collectively known as human augmentation, augmented human, or "the science of human augmentation." Human augmentation is expected to combine expanded physical ability and human existence with intellectual ability. This important field will go beyond enhancing the abilities of people of normal ability and will include supplementing or restoring the abilities of handicapped and elderly people. Some related elemental technologies and research fields include virtual reality (VR)/augmented reality (AR), human–computer interaction (HCI), wearable electronics, telepresence/telexistence, cyborgs, robotics, artificial intelligence, sports science, rehabilitation, biomechanics, prosthesis (prosthetic arm/leg technology), wearable computing, implantable computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), sensory substitution, crossmodal perception, brain–machine interfaces, and even cognitive science. Human augmentation is an advanced and interdisciplinary field of research that will be applied to a wide range of fields including (cooperative) work assistance, remote communication support, sports, training, rehabilitation, medicine, education, entertainment, and media content. The "Human Augmentation" endowed chair was established in The University of Tokyo Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies during the 2017 academic year with the goal of further pursuing human augmentation.
The term "unity of rider and horse" is often used to refer to a situation where a rider has truly mastered riding their horse. In such a situation, the line between rider and horse blurs and the abilities of both are in complete harmony. Likewise, "unity of man and machine" could be used to describe the relationship between humanity and technology. Rather than being in conflict with humanity, technology could fuse naturally with human ability. This synergy results in performance that would be impossible for either one to achieve alone. As human augmentation becomes more popular, it will change not only those who use it but the entire structure of society, including how we work and interact. Human augmentation research is expected to cause a ripple effect into many other fields. In this book—the first in the world that serves as both a handbook and academic book—leading experts in each area give their own insights into this promising field.
(Written by REKIMOTO Jun, Professor of Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies / 2018)