It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Ok, it’s not Superman, but by leaps and bounds, new technology is emerging that can give us mere mortals capabilities that are almost like the powers of our favorite superheroes.
Who hasn’t imagined what it would be like to fly like Superman, climb up buildings like your friendly neighborhood Spiderman, have superhuman strength like the Hulk, or have enhanced hearing or vision like Wonder Woman? You probably won’t become faster than a speeding bullet or be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but some emerging gadgets and wearable devices have capabilities that can only be described as superhuman.
For example, Superman’s x-ray vision allows him to see through solid objects (except for lead, of course). It’s a big advantage if you’re a superhero, but believe it or not, technology exists today that can actually let us see through walls as if we were superhuman. A company called Camero has developed a line of portable devices that use 3D ultra-wide-band imaging and micro-pulse radar technology to provide through-wall imaging. The products are used by military and law enforcement agencies in high-risk operations such as hostage rescue or anti-narcotics operations, so it’s not likely you’ll be getting one of these this holiday season.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a suit like Iron Man’s that makes you super strong? That’s exactly what exoskeletons do, which are a cross between robotics and wearables. Several companies have been developing exoskeletons for military applications, such as the Sarcos XOS that is capable of giving you superhuman strength. Additionally, these power-assisted suits are being used to help improve the lives of those with physical disabilities, such as the hybrid assisted limb (HAL) wearables created by Japanese firm Cyberdyne.
When it comes to scaling vertical walls, researchers for the Z-Man program at U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) didn’t look to radioactive spiders for the answer. Their spidey senses told them to study geckos, which have amazingly sticky feet. They developed what’s called “Geckskin,” an extremely sticky fabric that when adhered to a rough or smooth surface can support the weight of a person or up to 660 pounds.
The ability to disappear like the Invisible Woman could also come in handy in numerous situations. Luckily, there has been some significant developments in invisibility research, such as the University of Central Florida’s work on light-bending metamaterial and the Rochester Cloak, developed by the University of Rochester. Unfortunately, this technology isn’t going to save you from embarrassing social situations any time soon.
Don’t try this at home kids, but you can actually get a jetpack like comic-book hero Rocketeer. It’s not actually a jetpack in that it doesn’t run on jet fuel, but the Martin Jetpack will certainly get you airborne for just $150,000.
For the man or woman who has everything, or for those who work in dangerous places, Garrison offers a bespoke bullet-proof suit. It is designed using nanotechnology and made of carbon nanotubes so that the entire suit acts as a shield. It’s bound to be more stylish than Superman’s tights and less bulky than Captain America’s shield.
One of the more amazing technology developments to mimic a super power though, has to be OrCam’s portable device that is helping blind people to “see,” like Daredevil. It’s a small camera that uses artificial vision technology to recognize text, products or people and speaks to users through a mini earpiece.
These are just some of the technologies that are producing superhero like powers today, but could soon help improve our quality of life. And just maybe, in true comic-book style, they will make the world a better place.