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Superhuman

The rise of the

Technology that may eradicate human error

Forget comic book heroes and sci-fi cyborg fantasies; you’re a superhuman right now and don’t even realize it. The smartphone you’re likely using to read this article bestows a world’s worth of knowledge instantly. The fitness tracker on your wrist constantly charts and improves your health, and a set of contact lenses may continuously enhance your vision. Most modern humans go about their days boasting superpowers that ancestors from centuries or even decades ago would have considered fantastical. Today, they’re so commonplace as to be unremarkable.

Humanity is not only reaching technological milestones, but realizing newfound abilities, improving performance, even reshaping itself. More than 30 million people worldwide benefit from some form of prosthesis, as medical and technical advances create a golden age for alleviating disabilities. Augmented reality and facial recognition are creating new modes of communication and convenience. The dawn of semi-autonomous driving systems—such as Mercedes-Benz’s Driver Assistance Package—is helping to revolutionize mobility and roadway safety. Intelligent cars, once thought of as an innovation of a far-off future, are becoming a reality. These radical advances are poised to reduce human error further and allow more people the ability to achieve their potential.

01

Man-machine

Man-machine

Man-machine

Exoskeletons promise a workday without fatigue

Freeing us from the drudgery of physical work has always held the promise of human advancement. Heavy lifting, long hours and mammoth machinery mean tired and error-prone employees; experts at one marketing intelligence company estimate that overexertion requires $15 billion in compensation payments every year. Workers simply can’t run like robots. So why not give them some robot-like advantages?

A new generation of robotic exoskeletons—mechanical braces and joints that provide users with an extra lift, unlimited endurance and more precise handling of heavy loads or equipment—have recently moved from movies and the military to industrial sites and even warehouses and big box stores. Tests show the technology decreases fatigue by two-thirds, leading to greater productivity and fewer injuries. Experts believe the market for these devices will top $2 billion by 2025.

Even more empowering, these suits can become lifelines for the elderly with degenerative diseases, and offer the injured a high-tech road to recovery. Many hospitals and veterans groups have used these suits to help speed up physical therapy for those re-learning how to walk. Mechanical limbs may soon be the means for many to lift themselves up.

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Quiz 01 Select your answer choice below

In 1968, the U.S. military created the Hardiman, an early robotic exoskeleton prototype that didn’t work because of its incredible weight: 1,500 pounds. What’s the weight of the latest model of the Phoenix, a modern exoskeleton that can help paraplegics walk?

02

Building | in the cloud

Building | in the cloud

Building
in the cloud

Virtual job sites are construction’s computer-aided future

Crowdsourcing is one of the most powerful ways to eliminate human error and increase efficiency. Today’s office workers are accustomed to editing and brainstorming together on shared proposals, pitches or spreadsheets stored in the cloud. Soon, construction workers may do the same, logging changes and leaving comments on virtual construction sites as they assemble tomorrow’s skyscrapers.

With the rapid development of a new crop of virtual- and augmented-reality programs, workers will immediately be able to visualize blueprints, quickly adjust plans based on real-world insights and see finished products as they’re being built. This could reduce error, increase efficiency and speed up building projects across the huge $10 trillion dollar global construction and engineering industries.

Quiz 02 Select your answer choice below

The average human reaction time is 282 milliseconds (just slightly longer than the 250 milliseconds it takes another human to judge your appearance). What’s the reaction time of a newly designed robotic arm, manufactured to catch objects in mid-air?

Every interaction with the built world could be revolutionized. Architects could adjust balconies via solar positioning apps to guarantee the best views of the skyline. Foremen could quickly check work with virtual tape measures and instantly log progress. Real estate agents might offer home tours while the foundations are being poured. By moving technology from the project trailer to the project site, construction may become exponentially more efficient.

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03

Practice | leads to | perfection

Practice | leads to | perfection

Practice
leads to
perfection

Medicine’s virtual training revolution

Even the most highly trained among us will be impacted by tomorrow’s more precise, error-free workplaces. Last spring, a cancer surgery in the UK revolutionized medicine because of its audience, not its outcome. Filmed with 360-degree cameras, the procedure was the first operation broadcast in virtual reality. Students around the world could “scrub-in” to the live-stream and view it via increasingly affordable headsets (some VR experiences merely require a cardboard lens and smartphone). Such immediate and widespread access will enable surgeons in training to do endless dry runs without putting anybody under the knife.

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These new, and more realistic, virtual reality operating rooms will give surgeons across the world ever-more realistic ways to simulate high-pressure operations without risk. For example, medical procedures testing a new airway simulator can now be performed on a simulated patient that is realistic “down to the pores.” These advances couldn’t come at a better time; with traditionally grueling resident routines being shortened to avoid burnout during training, safer ways to provide much-needed experience have become vital.

04

Driven to success

Driven to | success

Driven to
success

Mercedes-Benz’s innovative, intelligent safe driving systems

The perils of distracted driving resulted in nearly 400,000 accidents in the U.S. in 2015. To help eliminate these incidents, a new generation of technology seeks to serve as additional eyes on the road, helping deliver a safer, more enjoyable driving experience. Mercedes-Benz has already introduced a suite of advances in E-Class vehicles, covering everything from parking to night driving, that actively and seamlessly help the driver direct automobiles away from danger. Called Intelligent Drive, the system takes in potential dangers via cutting-edge sensors, cameras and multi-range radar.

Evasive Steering Assist provides assistance by adding precisely calculated steering torque to support the movement of the vehicle when the driver initiates an evasive maneuver to avoid a pedestrian. The Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function can detect vehicles and pedestrians in front of the car - even scanning up ahead to pick up crossing traffic moving into the vehicle's path - and can help the driver apply the brakes if it senses an impending collision.

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05

Computer | eye on the ball

Computer | eye on the | ball

Computer
eye on the ball

The future of error-free officiating

As video computer vision makes errors easier to spot, it seems only natural to use technology to alleviate the high-stakes errors of professional sports refs. A new video system, currently being tested at a university in the Midwest, uses a series of ultra high-resolution, 360-degree cameras to capture every inch of the playing field, be it a basketball arena or a football field, and gives accurate accounts of just where the ball landed on the field of play.

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It’s a huge leap forward from instant replay, which debuted on football fields in 1986. With the highest levels of professional soccer and football already invested in state-of-the-art video, the blown call that previously was an accepted human error may soon be a fault no fan need accept.

Quiz 03 Select your answer choice below

The new Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg, Germany, used algorithms to create one of the most acoustically perfect spaces in the world. How many custom-designed panels were generated by the computer designer?

06

Million | dollar smile

Million | dollar | smile

Million
dollar smile

Facial recognition payment

Fingerprinting to pay has already become passé. As mobile payment systems expand, banking and tech companies want to make facial recognition the future of cashless banking. The use of deep machine learning to sort through patterns and data, along with increasingly detailed cameras to identify unique facial features, is already huge in China: Consumers can pay for groceries, sign in for ride-hailing apps and even receive personalized greetings in coffee shops.

With two of the largest phone makers in the world reportedly working on similar technology, it seems this selfie pay system will become mainstream sooner than we thought. According to leading market analysts, a huge percentage of phones will be biometrics-enabled by 2018. Living wallet and fraud-free may come much sooner than anybody expects.

A new era of

human performance dawns

human | performance | dawns

human performance dawns

While all these technologies are powerful in their own right, the confluence of advances suggests a new era of technology-driven opportunity is just beginning. Reducing human error and facilitating better communications offer the prospect of a safer, more secure future. More careers and opportunities will be open to everyone. Time, an increasingly rare commodity in our always-connected world, may free up as work becomes less about toil and physical labor. We can pay more attention to creativity and collaboration.

The speed at which commerce and culture adapt to and improve on these changes may be the most superhuman achievement of them all. These advancements will transform our everyday present, fueling more innovation and discovery. When superhuman abilities are available to everyone, we will all have more power to change things for the better.