As kids, we all dreamed about being superheroes with amazing powers that could let us do things no mere person could manage. We dreamed about flying, having super hearing or X-ray vision, jumping huge heights or being able to run through brick walls without pause. When we get older, we realise that these powers are beyond us and any person – or are they? Now, technology may be stepping into those dreams and offering ways to get those superpowers that we always dreamed about.
Super strengthSuper strength makes it to the top of the list because it is the most likely to happen. Engineers have already created robotic assist systems that are used to help military combatants become stronger and more efficient while a similar idea can help the elderly regain their mobility.
One bionics company CFO believes that his company can and will create something along the lines of the Iron Man suit while the US Army has created something called Warrior Web to limit musculoskeletal injury when carrying lots of equipment. Even Lockheed Martin have made an exoskeleton suit called the HULC to help boost the strength and reduce physical stress on workers.
Being invisibleSuperheroes often have the ability to make themselves invisible and other characters, namely a certain famous young wizard, used special magical cloaks and other devices to achieve the same aim. Now we mere humans may be able to duplicate this ability thanks to research being carried out around the world.
In June, a team in Singapore and China created a cloaking device that works on natural light and were able to 'hide' a cat and a fish from sight. There were limitations and definitely a long way to go before it is available on the high street (if ever) but for a moment, that cat achieved one of our dreamt-of superpowers like those of a superhero.
Super visionMelting things with laser vision is probably beyond us but having a computer built into our eyeball may not be. Tech giants Google have recently patented an idea for a computer that is injected into the eyeball to process information directly into the line of sight. And that's not all – it will potentially let you listen to radio through the computer and even store files on the tiny processor.
Nor are Google the only ones working on enhanced vision – an MIT professor and her students are working on a way to allow people to see through walls using a system similar to radar and sonar.
Mind controlOr rather, controlling things with the mind as a group of researchers put it in the issue of the Journal of Neural Engineering. Their project is to use a non-invasive EEG to allow people to control a quadcopter with the power of their mind alone. Thinking of a closed fist results in it turning right while two closed fists in the mind result in it flying upwards. The idea could allow paralysed people to move objects around themselves or even have control over mechanical limbs.
Enhanced hearingA project from the Royal College of Art earlier this year showcased a mask that definitely looked like something out of a superheroes movie and comes with similar abilities – enhanced hearing and possible vision in the long term.
The mask helps to fine tune the bombardment of sounds we hear all of the time and allows us to focus on a single sound for targeting hearing. Possible applications include for schools to allow students to focus purely on the teacher with distractions from other noises around them though the hardware will need a bit of work from its current bulky and slightly terrifying form!