Andrea Minonne
Andrea Minonne (Senior Research Analyst, Customer Insights & Analysis)
Kyla Lam
Kyla Lam (Research Analyst, AR/VR and Wearables, IDC Europe)

In the future, human capabilities will be elevated by a mix of established, emerging, and nano- technologies. As technology evolves fast, we will talk more about “Augmented Humanity”. The need to add an augmentation layer to human skills or to humanise interactions between humans and machines is driving attention toward technologies such as exoskeletons, ingestibles, implantables, injectables, biometrics, brain-computer interfaces, affecting computing, wearables, augmented and virtual reality (ARVR), and smart devices.  

Augmented Humanity creates an interaction between the digital and physical worlds, allowing “technologically enabled humans” to unleash their full potential and perform at levels they could not reach without technology. Think about how exoskeletons support workers with weight lifting in manufacturing plants, how AR-enabled smart glasses enabled remote asset maintenance in the COVID-19 era, or how the full stack of augmented humanity techs are helping individuals tackle accessibility barriers.

The Augmented Humanity market will be worth over $70 billion by the end of 2021 and will grow steadily throughout 2025 and beyond, as new market needs drive demand for new and next-gen use cases. This is a huge opportunity for both established and emerging tech providers that want to be the intermediator between technology and humanity and enable innovation. In the years ahead, societies and businesses will look at disruptive technologies to change the way we live, work, and interact and transform human existence.

How will Augmented Humanity Techs Disrupt the World?

  1. AR and VR will revolutionise the traditional mental health industry.

ARVR is already allowing mental health professionals to deliver an immersive experience to their patients. According to the ARVR Spending Guide, healthcare will spend almost $120 million in 2021 as the industry strives to deliver innovative ways to deliver patient care.

Virtual reality will be the next big thing for mental health as the technology enables professionals to learn new things about human cognitive functions while leading health providers toward better treatments and outcomes. As the technology becomes more accepted and accessible to people, individuals lacking time or financial resources will use VR for self-therapies and personalised mental health treatments delivered at home.

Psious delivers VR software that helps deliver virtual environments combining sensory stimulation with custom-designed situations to help healthcare providers treat anxiety disorders. By examining traditional cognitive theories, Psious uses VR to allow health professionals to relearn patients’ psychological experiences from first-person observation and tackle nuance cognitive barriers.

  1. Exoskeletons will add a robotized layer to the workforce of the future.

Exoskeletons are enabling next-generation augmentation of human capabilities, offering passive mechanical support to employees working in industries where heavy lifting is required. Although we will not see cost-effective exoskeletons deployed at mass scale soon, industries such as automotive and transport are already augmenting and transforming the bodies of their workforce by providing workers with exoskeletons to increase employee productivity and safety, lower in-plant incident rates, and speed up manufacturing and production processes.

Ford has partnered with Ekso Bionics and has rolled out 75 upper body EksoVest exoskeletons to support employees across more than a dozen automotive plants across the globe, decreasing the level of work injuries and increasing the quality of employee experience.

  1. Wearables will become the technological materialization of the “quantified-self” trend.

Smart wearables have enabled the “quantified-self” phenomenon, in which end users and tech makers share an interest in self-discovery through datafication. Smart watches monitoring heart rates, blood-oxygen, and blood-glucose levels via infrared sensor technology will be more frequently seen across consumers. Smart glasses that process data and display holographic visualisation of information will also experience a surge in demand. This is already happening to enable remote workforce transformation use cases in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Oura recently received $100 million worth of funding, through which it engaged in partnerships including with the NBA, WNBA, UFC, and NASCAR. The wearable industry is transitioning activity trackers to health platforms. By quantifying our sleeping pattern, the Oura ring instigates actionable insights for health improvement through datafication, which can avoid health conditions linked with diabetes, cardiac disease, or Alzheimer’s.

  1. Brain-computer interfaces will engage in cerebral activity and support human functions.

BCI is a communication pathway between the brain and an external device. It translates human brain activity into an external action via neural commands, enabling humans to control machines without the physical constraints of the body, just by using their minds.

BCI can help restore functional impairment in people with illnesses such as motor system disorder, intellectual developmental disorder, memory loss, and mobility deficits. In the future, amputees could directly control sophisticated prosthetic limbs and people with impaired movement could use integration between exoskeletons and BCI to restore their movement functions.

BitBrain partnered with Nissan in the Brain-to-Vehicle (B2V) project, connecting the driver’s brain with the vehicle to create safe driving experiences. Nissan discovered that BCI can predict the driver’s reaction time in braking and that it is possible to activate the brakes 0.4-1 seconds before the driver’s muscles execute the brain’s order. At 100km/h, this results in a 27-meter shorter braking distance, which can make a difference in avoiding car crashes.

  1. Affective computing will enable microtargeted, personalized, and real-time customer experiences.

In the future, companies will ramp up investments to better understand human emotions expressed in their voices, faces, text, and other behaviours to micro-target individuals in extremely highly personalized ways. Unlike artificial intelligence, affective computing is still not widely adopted, but platforms capable of recognizing and responding to users’ emotional states will be used to enhance experiences and safety in the automotive industry, optimize in-store shopping experiences in retail, detect fraud in banking or insurance, produce real-time diagnosis in healthcare, or measure student effectiveness in education.

BMW worked with Affectiva to examine the emotional in-cabin experience and understand how automotive companies can realize if drivers are falling asleep or are attentive. Affectiva is helping automotive companies ensure road safety and enhance driving experience by gaining insight into driver interactions and recognizing drivers’ levels of drowsiness, distraction, and anger.

  1. Biometrics will replace passwords, PIN codes, and access badges.

Biometrics have been around for a while. Police and security providers at public facilities such as hotels, casinos, and airports rely on facial recognition to identify individuals. Many banks are taking a big step toward biometric banking by launching voice recognition to allow customers to authenticate safely and quickly. New biometrics-enabled use cases will increase and will rely on our physical and behavioural traits.

We will rely less on door keys, PIN codes, passwords, and badges and will use fingerprint, facial and voice recognition, iris scanning, and hand geometry to authenticate ourselves and access services.

Tatra Bank is using voice biometrics to reduce client authentication time by 66% without compromising security. 75,000 customers (10% of the bank’s active client base) enrolled their voiceprints within six weeks and that more than doubled to 170,000 customers within the first 12 months post-implementation.

  1. Capsule cameras will turn invasive in-hospital screening into at-home medical care.

Ingestible tech will innovate healthcare services and although approval from medical bodies and scepticism will be among the strongest barriers to adoption, hospitals are trialling capsuled cameras to replace endoscopies with less invasive techniques.

By swallowing a capsule camera, patients can go about their day as normal and access routine screening services from home. The imaging technology will provide a diagnosis within hours and will help decrease patient stress, while also decreasing pressure on healthcare, bringing technology-driven disruption and transformative alternatives to traditional medical screenings.

An unprecedented capsule camera trial of 11,000 patients is taking place in England. Patients will trial Pillcam Colon 2 technology, provided by Medtronic, which aims to replace traditional endoscopies, turning invasive in-hospital checks into delivered-at-home medical experiences.

  1. Implantable medical devices will create connected self-monitoring humans.

Consumer use of injectable technologies will allow people to launch social media applications, set alarms and home digital security systems, and store train tickets. The use of injectable techs in the consumer space will be more of a hype, due to their invasiveness and replaceability by similar and less invasive biometrics-driven use cases.

On the other hand, implantable and injectable medical devices such as Bluetooth-enabled continuous glucose monitoring solutions will grow strongly and help patients optimize their therapy with ongoing communication via mobile applications, while guaranteeing drug delivery.

Thousands of Swedish citizens use microchip implants to gain entrance to facilities, confirm their ID, or make payments. The national rail company SCA has already signed up 2,600 people to use microchips instead of train tickets.

  1. Smart devices of the future will work together to deliver autonomous experiences.

According to IDC’s Smart Home Device Tracker, smart home devices will be a $75 billion market in Europe by 2025, representing an 8% CAGR. With consumers being more aware of the convenience, cost- and energy-efficiency that smart devices provide, these devices are gaining a lot of traction, especially with the advent of 5G which will enhance their capability and increase their adoption.

The road to full integration between different smart devices is long, but in the future, we will use integration between smart devices to create autonomous experiences that will help us in our private and work lives.  

One of the most popular smart devices is Alexa. With a simple voice command, Alexa enables skills in connected cars, food and drinks, travel and transportation, music and audio and smart home. Not only does this act as a foot-in-the-door for convenience for end-users, but it also helps individuals have more autonomy and respond to different functional needs.

What Next?

Over the coming months, IDC’s Augmented Humanity Launchpad will dive deeper into the Augmented Humanity market and produce a market sizing and forecast by vertical. 


For more information about the Augmented Humanity market, industry trends, established and emerging use cases, and key players, please contact Andrea Minonne or Kyla Lam, or head over to and drop your details in the form on the top right.

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