Seymourpowell design researcher, Rob Kirby,gives his view on a current trend in the gaming world, ‘H+ gaming’, and discussed what this could mean for our future and the future of our products.

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“The most powerful works for the diffusion of human thought… will be the radiated library. The workspace is no longer cluttered with any books, in their place a screen” This was a prediction made by Paul Otlet, a Belgian librarian, on the future of communication in 1934. Seventy seven years later and now with an estimated two billion Internet users worldwide, this has led to a whole raft of products, companies and individuals’ lives depending on this now vital service.

Predictions of future technologies, and how they impact human evolution, have long been a rich hunting ground for writers and directors alike. From the futuristic vision of doors opening automatically as people walk towards them in Star Trek, to the gestural interfaces in Minority Report. This has all stimulated product development, the result of which is now deeply ingrained in our daily lives.

So could the dawn of a new gaming trend offer an insight into the next generation of our products and evolution?

Transhumanist gaming (also known as H+ gaming) envisages upgraded human beings that use biomechanics to improve ones performance, endurance, ability and even lifespan. ‘Deus Ex: Human Revolution’ is the latest in a string of blockbuster games that brings this augmented trend to life. The main character undergoes radical life-saving surgery that replaces large areas of his body with advanced prostheses that give him superhuman abilities, such as punching through concrete walls, invisibility cloaks and x-ray vision. These powers are instinctively prioritised for combat, stealth, social or hacking challenges. In other words, the augmentations react to the ever-changing conditions.

Although this seems like a time many decades away, this game was set in 2027 – a time that such advancements are thought to be realistically possible. This begins to paint a picture of what our world and our products could soon look like.

This technotopian vision of the future is shared in the recent hit ‘Crysis 2’ where the saviour of New York City is a Marine wearing a suit that adapts in superhuman ways to varying missions:

Set in a similar era (2023), the suit is billed as ‘the most sophisticated combat hardware around’ that makes ‘death an inconvenience’. Similarly to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the suit adapts to offer great speed, invisibility and unimaginable strength. It enhances every punch, kick, backflip and gunshot. But in doing so it becomes deeply rooted in the once ordinary Marine, welding itself into muscle groups and organs, forming a biomechanical extension of the character.

Despite the heavily gun-laden plots to both games, these augmentations got me thinking – just as the rise of the Internet age has, what if these visions become reality? What could this mean for our products?

Early forms of these advanced visions are venturing out from beyond our computer screens: Lockheed Martin is developing the next generation of exoskeletons for the U.S. Army. These robotic suits fit almost any soldier and offer (you guessed it) great speed and unimaginable strength. This allows heavy objects to be lifted over vast distances and prolonged periods of time; invisibility is an optional extra (possibly).

In the last five years the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago has introduced the first woman fitted with ‘bionic arm’ technology. This technology has restored her power of touch and response after her left arm was amputated at the shoulder following a motorcycle accident. This restoration was made possible by rewiring the remaining nerve endings from her shoulder to a working muscle group. This allows her prosthetic arm to respond and feel objects using the power of thought alone. This is a fully integrated augmentation and is a giant step forward in the world of prosthetics.

Furthermore, advanced carbon-fibre prosthetic feet have allowed Oscar Pistorius, a double-amputee sprinter, to compete again, reputedly with 30% more strength and using 25% less energy than his able-bodied competitors. Oscar Pistorius is a great example of how these advancements can be so contentious after he was disqualified from the Olympics for being “too fast”. Should he have been able to enter the Olympics or not? For now, he may be slower than Usain Bolt but technological advancements are beginning to overtake the progress of our own natural evolution. Soon won’t Oscar have the unfair advantage over his able-bodied competitors?

We are already witnessing real-life examples of these evolutionary products, which bring us another step closer to the ‘fiction’ described in the games above. Our products are becoming so user-aware they almost have a consciousness of their own.

So perhaps the question should be ‘what does this mean for society when this intelligent generation of products reaches the masses?’ Will you be ‘for’ or ‘against’ human augmentation? And perhaps – equally as important – how will other products put this intelligent and adaptable consciousness to use? Will we see clothes and accessories that automatically adjust to the wearer’s physical demands? Or could information be automatically synthesized and streamed to you to optimise your commute home from work?

It seems the world of gaming already has the answer.

I spotted the blog post on Seymourpowell's official blog

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