Super heroes are the very definition of cool. The secret identities, the triumphant rescues, the skin-tight Lyrca outfits that show off every defined muscle and curve.
Yes, super heroism is a lifestyle we could all get used to.
Luckily for you, the following eight super powers don’t even require mutated genetics or a Kryptonian birth certificate, thanks to modern technology.
Until recently, only boy wizards enjoyed the power of invisibility. Those “cloaks” that did exist were either too bulky or too small to fit over anything larger than a petri dish. But no more.
Using a new, ultra-thin “metascreen,” researchers from the University of Texas at Austin developed a cloak that cancels out waves of light as they hit an object. It’s called “mantle cloaking.” Rather than bending light around an object or projecting background images onto the front of a object (like in this video), this new method can suppress not only the object itself, but also the object’s shadow — meaning it’s invisible from every angle.
At this point, the technology is far from perfect, as it only cancels out microwaves. But creators hope the “cloak” will eventually help industries like defense and healthcare (in addition to midnight snacks and Draco Malfoy pranks).
While we’ve always considered lasers the perfect weapons against the Imperial Navy and bored cats, the technology is still a weapon of the future.
The Navy has recently acquired its own giant “lay-zer,” which it promptly used to shoot a drone out of the sky. Not to be outdone, the Air Force is also getting in on the laser light show, attaching liquid-cooled, solid state lasers to fighter planes to defend from incoming missiles and rockets. Firing tests are expected to begin in 2014.
3. Mind Control
Professor X made it cool, wheels and all. Jean Grey took it to a whole new level as the Phoenix. While you may not be able to control your boss or significant other’s mind just yet, you can do a little more about your own.
New technology called “transcranial pulsed ultrasound,” currently being developed by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), controls the mind by emitting targeted, high-frequency sound waves aimed at highly specific sections of the brain. The technology, which would be planted into a helmet, offers limitless military options. Soldiers could dull feelings of pain, remain alert for longer or simply relax enough to sleep. The moral implications of who gets to control this technology, however, will most likely prevent it from gaining major traction any time soon.
4. Wall Crawling
You bought the suit and mask. You built your own web shooter. You even started dating a redhead (good luck to you). But your Spidey-skills mean zilch until you can parkour like Peter Parker.
Designed by Utah State University’s “Ascending Aggies” team of engineers, the PVAC (Personal Vacuum Assisted Climber) won first place out of 33 teams in a contest held by the Air Force. It could be the basis for a forthcoming high-tech device for military special forces.
Are your Spidey senses tingling yet?
5. Enhanced Hearing
Echolocation was perfected by Batman and Daredevil, not to mention bats and dolphins around the world. Today, scientists are working on middle ear implants that would make humans capable of echolocation. Soon, there may even be an app for that.
An area of the ear known as the pinna helps us determine where sounds are coming from, in other words, what’s in front of us and behind us (a relatively important distinction that humans are surprisingly poor at). Studies have shown that there may be a “perfect pinna,” which could potentially give humans “ears in the back of their head.”
While this wouldn’t be all that useful for everyone, it would help you catch particularly sneaky bad guys during those extended fight sequences.
6. Enhanced Vision
In a world where more than 150 million Americans sport some sort of corrective eyewear, enhanced vision is tempting. Apart from ridding us of 1-800-Contacts commercials, enhanced vision would likely produce better night vision and the ability to see body heat or extra colors.
Experiments are far ranging. One doctor uses special mirrors to correct even the most minor imperfections in the eye, giving patients up to 20/10 vision. Another pair of doctors hopes to genetically alter sight in monkeys and color-blind humans, eventually enhancing even normal vision.
Looking for something a little techier? Bionic options are in the works, some of which contain a camera, meaning the eye could view in infared, zoom or sport different lenses. Before you rush off the eye doctor, remember that many people who now wear “bionic” eyes do so because they’ve lost their actual eye. Plus, it’s still too soon to say whether the brain could register such images.
7. Super Strength
If you’re more into self-made superheroes like Batman and Iron Man, check out the XOS 2 exoskeleton in the video above. This version can lift several hundred pounds without the wearer even feeling the weight of the suit. The problem? It’s still in the design phase and needs to hook to a power source at all times.
Other options include what appears to be a tank with a face, made in Japan, and a NASA suit for astronauts in zero gravity.
Ah, flight. The creme de la creme of super powers is arguably the most out of reach. If you’re looking to the skies, however, there are a few options.
First, the jet pack. Thanks to a company called JetLev, you could purchase your very own jet pack for about $100,000, or rent one at various vacation spots for about $237 a day. This version is powered by water, so you’d have to keep your flight 30 feet above a water source.
Sold by Tecnologia Aerospacial Mexicana for about $125,000, Rocket Belt flights can last roughly 20 seconds, reaching speeds up to 60 mph.
The latest option for flight includes a flying bike prototype created by Czech companies Duratec, Technodat and Evektor. The bike weighs 209 pounds and is powered by four motors and one propeller. Don’t look for one yet, though, as the bike will need better batteries before it’s ready for commercial use.
Which of these superhero gadgets are you dying to try? Have your very own jet pack or grappling hook? Let us know in the comments below.
Image via iStockphoto, yogysic