Worldwide Research

According to Thomas Schnell of the University of Iowa, non-U.S. entities appear to be more active in such cognitive-function research. He believes that the international players that warrant attention are Israel, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands. It should also be noted that Taiwan and South Korea have infrastructure and expertise in these fields; for example, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology has recently established a Department of Bio and Brain Engineering. There is also great interest in this research in China. The work that has been published in western peer-reviewed scientific journals suggests that China is still building expertise based on western innovation rather than pioneering novel research of its own. Nonetheless, China is pouring resources into this area.1

Other Kinds of Interfaces

In the context of HPM, it is important to consider possibilities beyond physical modification of the human or the human's work environment. An intriguing example is that it may be possible to train a person to work with a machine or computer interface to enhance the person’s normal capabilities (Cui et al., 2012). A crude illustration of this concept can be seen in the case of a bicycle. A person is trained to create an interface with the bicycle to increase his or her ability to move. The person learns to move his or her legs in a specific way to move the pedals to produce propulsion, to balance his or her body on the machine, and to maneuver the machine through combinations of body movements and steering. A more advanced illustration might be the training of a person to manipulate machines through the coordinated movements and controlled thought patterns that are accessible with increasingly sensitive equipment. The concept would build on capabilities that are already in place, such as eye-movement measurements and bodytracking capabilities. An example of a nascent capability of this kind can be seen in the University of Washington application2 that uses a kinesthetic learning environment to teach students mathematics. The idea of training the user and the machine together may open a new frontier in HPM. Augmenting performance may not require as much if machine and user are trained together as it would otherwise.


Nanotechnology involves any application of materials that measure a few hundreds of nanometers or smaller. It can refer to a wide variety of technologies relevant to HPM, including electronics, microelectromechanical systems, energy harvesting and storage, and biomedicine. The field cuts across many of the other aspects of HPM in that it enables their implementation.

Advanced fabrication techniques allow ever-smaller computer chips, cameras, and antennae that can result in wireless devices that are small and light enough to be integrated into virtually every aspect of human endeavor. Smart phones, for instance, benefit from these advances, allowing more capabilities to be integrated in a device that is small and light enough to fit in a pocket. Devices such as smart phones arguably enhance human performance by making a vast amount of information accessible. The miniaturization is also enabling technologies that more directly alter human performance, such as proposed wearable augmented reality devices, including Sixth Sense—an interface based on gestures that is a predecessor of the type depicted in


1Thomas Schnell, Associate Professor, University of Iowa. Operator State Characterization Using Neurophysiological Measures. Presentation to the committee on March 8, 2012.

2For more information, see Accessed August 2, 2012.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement