The hot new video game "Deus Ex: Human Revolution," which hit shelves last week, allows players set in the future to replace entire organs and limbs with ones that are stronger and faster than the average person. But according to the game’s creators, this concept may not be as far off from reality as you’d think.
"Deus Ex: Human Revolution" – which made news when video game retailer GameStop yanked coupons placed inside the game’s packaging for free access to the streaming service Onlive, a competitor to the retailer’s upcoming streaming service – focuses on human augmentation, or the addition of mechanical parts to the human body. In the game, having a player’s leg replaced with a mechanically augmented leg isn't a handicap – it's an advantage.
The storyline is based on the assumption that mechanical augmentations continue to be developed and improved at an exponential rate. These augmentations are incredibly useful, but as with any implant, the body's natural response to foreign objects is to attack them with the immune system. In "Deus Ex: Human Revolution," a drug called Neuropozyne – informally called Nu-poz – is an anti-rejection drug used by augmented humans to stop the buildup of scar tissue around augmentations.
This enables everyone to have long-term implants, but at a cost of becoming addicted to the expensive drug. The story starts with a scientist’s revelation that she found a way to do genetic engineering to avoid the need for the drug, but she is murdered in the first scene.
The game also features superhuman sensor technology, allowing your character to narrow in on bad guys as they approach, and also obtain noticeable gains in body function and strength. " Deus Ex" also includes various militarized augmentations, such as a prosthetic arm that can turn into a gun.
You are able to build your character's augmentations to support your abilities to be a social manipulator, a hacker, a stealthy or a physically powerfully player. The choices you make throughout the game affect the plot.
Game maker Square Enix was committed to making sure the technology used in the game was as accurate as possible, so they turned to Will Rosellini — a former professional baseball pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks system and CEO of MicroTransponder, a company working on implants that can actually control nerve impulses in the human body — to consult on the game.
"When I retired, I realized I had spent 15 years thinking about how best to prepare my body and mind to deliver a pitch at over 95mph," Rosellini told TechNewsDaily. "When I saw how researchers were working on these problems for patients with faulty nervous systems, I decided I could apply my interest to helping people get better. I also wished it was possible to replace it with a superhuman one that could throw balls faster than before.”
Rosellini became fascinated with electronic devices that could be integrated into and help repair damaged nervous systems. Although some of the technology in the game is far from reality right now, the concept of body augmentation is only expected to grow, Rosellini said.
"People have been augmenting themselves since the beginning of time, with tools, weapons and now cosmetic implants," he added. "Meanwhile, there is a growing dependency on chemical augmentations for mood enhancements (Paxil) or cognitive enhancements for children (Adderall). The question isn't whether humans should augment themselves or not, the question is whether augmentation leads them to a happy more fulfilled life."
Rosellini said he views the integration of technology into the human body as a mixed blessing.
"The major pros involve medical devices that can be used to treat neurological diseases by improving function and a return to daily life," Rosellini said. "However, the primary con relates to needing to have a surgery and the infection risk ."
Augmentations that heighten your senses or boost your strength are probably closer to reality than enhancements that make you smarter or improve your memory, Rosellini said, but the latter transplants are not impossible.
Experiments in rats, for example, suggest it may be possible to enhance cognitive functions by inserting a chip into the hippocampus — the part of the brain that retains memories — to replace and delete memories.
"The cognitive enhancements would be the furthest out in becoming a reality," Rosellini said.