Technology: Implants

Cybernetics are rarely used for replacement these days, bioprinting enables a limb to be replaced with ease within a day or two, however they have some use for augmentation. In fact, on many high-tech worlds the majority of the population has at least two implants.

The most common are medical microbots, microscopic but not quite nanoscopic robots that can move cells around and stimulate growth to patch up wounds, eliminate pathogens, and halt aging. They can even repair brain damage, though legally a person is considered dead when 60% of their brain is destroyed.

Another common type of implant has been around far longer, a Brain-Computer Interface uses a combination of electrodes and optogenetics to form a direct link between the user’s brain and a variety of electronic devices. There are many different brands and models of BCI, the most common uses a smartphone-like device typically implanted at the base of the cranium that can be used for a variety of purposes, usually communication without audible speech and augmented reality, which most worlds have networks of. Other BCI implants are specialized for things such as teleoperation of robotic “Waldoes”, virtual reality, and memory backup. Memory backup implants record sensory data as the user experiences it, usually to be uploaded to an external device every so often, and can be replayed at will. Unfortunately everyone experiences things a little differently, playing someone else’s memories can be confusing or disorienting, in some cases it can even cause brain damage. General use BCIs are capable of most specialized tasks but are less efficient or have less on-site memory. Unfortunately for telepaths optogenetic modification appears to unsync the QEParts in the altered neurons, weakening their links, many do not use BCIs at all. Many of them wear glasses or contacts that enable them to access augmented reality and are controlled by external neural sensors, with far less precision than implants.

Subvocal pickups are another, even older type of implant, which were popular in the pre-exodus days when BCI implantation was perceived as too risky. They consist of a small microphone placed around the larynx which can detect the smallest movements and vocalizations, enabling the user to speak inaudibly to others wirelessly, and a speaker in one or both cochleae. These days subvocals are only used in the Federation by those paranoid of “brain hacking” and telepaths, but there are many outlier worlds where local medicine isn’t up to the task of brain surgery.

Perhaps the most radical augmentation is shapeshifting, a variation on medical microbots capable of making changes far beyond that necessary for survival. They can move fat, muscle, and bone tissue from one part of the body to another, and dye skin and hair in response to commands issued from the user’s BCI. In a day or two a lithe felid woman can look like a brawny canid male, for example. Shapeshifting microbots are even capable of adding or subtracting limbs. But they are limited by body mass and require significant amounts of energy, shapeshifters tend to double or even triple their food consumption while shifting. The kitsune subculture embrace this technology and mitigate the mass requirements by adding multiple tails to their base forms, the number is generally an indicator of the kitsune’s rank in their skulk.

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