Cyberware is the colloquial term used to describe cybernetic prosthetic replacement organs, limbs and other physical cybernetic enhancements. Popularized in the cyberpunk speculative fiction of the late 20th century, cyberware is an all-inclusive term that describes many disciplines of human enhancement technology utilizing the man-machine interface.

History

The first public cybernetic replacements were crude inventions such as Dean Kamen’s “Luke Arm,” made to replace lost limbs with crude movements and bulky attachments. Though prosthetics had been used for decades before the “Luke Arm,” none displayed the capabilities of this invention. It took a decade of testing and refinement before the first units were commercially available as medical prosthetics in the United States. Available in metal or faux flesh models, these versions were modular and upgradeable, but required large battery packs that limited mobility.

A parallel development track was undertaken in secret sometime in 2012 by a partnership of the Pentagon and various multinational corporations, including Chronosoft, Sony and Phillips Erickson. This project, codenamed Silver Eagle, was aimed at augmenting human capabilities through cybernetic prosthetics. Though the project lagged behind the replacement technology, its results were much more impressive. Limbs were created that doubled, tripled and even quadrupled the strength of the limb they replaced. Replacement legs allowed some of the test subjects to run in short bursts of up to 18 mph, arms were able to lift 1000 lbs. with proper spinal bracing, and replacement eyes enhanced vision range and depth, and allowed sight into the infrared and ultraviolet spectrums.

The first real-world use of cybernetic augmentation was the use of so-called “cybersoldiers” in the Chavez War of 2018. Two Enhanced Marine Platoons from Eagle Company were used to assault the capital of Venezuela, and their augmented abilities proved decisive. Originally meant to be a covert strike force, international television cameras caught these enhanced humans on film. While the US Military initially denied the existence of cybernetically-enhanced soldiers, it eventually used the surviving members of the platoons as spokesmen for its recruitment drive, Be a CyberSoldier.

The corporate members of Project Silver Eagle lobbied the military for permission to begin sales of commercial versions of the cyberware, and were rebuffed. Seeing no recourse, the American divisions of the companies filed suit against the government. In a highly-publicized series of court cases that went to the Supreme Court, the companies were awarded the rights to produce cyberware for sale, provided each enhancement was installed by a medical professional and registered with a federal database. The first enhancement cyberware was the Chronosoft Blue Collar Series of arms and legs, marketed towards manual laborers at a low cost. The arms suffered from substandard construction and faulty materials, finally being recalled in early 2021. Sales suffered through the next two generations of product, but the 2023 release of the Chronosoft Atlas line saw a perfected design that met high standards in quality while maintaining a reasonable price point.

With the commercial success of the Atlas series, a thriving black market erupted. Whereas corporate label cyberware was safe, following stringent FDA guidelines, black market cyberware was a chancy endeavor, often installed by unlicensed technicians in less than sterile conditions. Corporate label cyberware had limitations placed on the amount of augmentation allowed, but black market cyberware faced none of those restrictions, leading to outlandish experimentation. Many of these experiments have resulted in death for both the user and innocent bystanders. Black market cyberware also bypasses the federal licensing restrictions, but the proliferation of illegal “ware” has become so widespread, not even the LGL-backed corporate police have been able to enforce licensing laws effectively.

Styles

Cyberware most often refers to cybernetic limb replacements, but “ware” is not limited to limbs. Entire organs have been replaced, including eyes, lungs, heart, stomach, pancreas and even sexual organs. The most common replacements are:

  • Arms (with strength augmentations of up to six times – such augmentations usually require some spinal replacement or bracing)
  • Legs (with speed augmentations that have passed the 20 mph mark)
  • Eyes (with reports of 300/20 vision enhancement, infrared and ultraviolet attachments, as well as HUD enhancements such as email/text/television displays)
  • Hearing (up to 10x increased hearing sensitivity)
  • Lungs (increased breathing capacity resulting in heightened endurance)
  • Hands (increased crushing power, gadget fingers such as tasers, claws, electronic keychain)

All visible cyberware can be covered in a faux flesh covering that often fools the naked eye. However, most of the pop culture that has embraced cybernetic enhancements as a fashion statement disdains the use of “skinning” the cyberware, preferring to proudly display their metal.