Superman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, and other superheroes are fictional, of course. But their superpowers may soon be very real, thanks to scientists who believe there are no limits to innovation. So whether you're a tech maven like Iron Man or a Chevrolet Volt driver with a fully charged battery and a superpower for finding parking spots, keep your eye on these five real-world technologies that can give an ordinary human extraordinary abilities.
We've all seen technicians on crime dramas "enhance" grainy video or muffled audio to help catch the bad guys. But what if we could do that in real time? The Eidos device has an audio portion that neutralizes background noise and amplifies only the speech and sounds you choose. The vision portion detects and overlays movement to allow you to see traces and patterns hidden to the naked eye. Eidos fits over your face like a mask, so it's perfect for keeping that secret identity a secret.
Passwords, fingerprinting, and even retina scans are such a 20th-century way to confirm ID. To keep everything from your supercomputer to your ride safe, you'll need Disney's capacitive fingerprinting technology. "Fingerprinting" is a bit of a misnomer, since this tech can actually recognize you by your bone density, muscle mass, and electrical current levels, among other methods. So if in the future you don't want your superhero-mobile to fall into the wrong hands, this is a security measure that even the most clever of villains can't crack.
No matter how often we go to the gym, we humans just aren't capable of superhuman strength. Tokyo University of Science has found a way around that problem: a robotic exoskeleton fitted with artificial muscles. The current versions of these "muscle suits" are intended to make repetitive lifting in the workplace easier and help health care workers move patients more efficiently. Scientists are still working to make the suits more lightweight and capable of greater feats of strength. Maybe we'll all be able to lift as much as the Incredible Hulk soon.
While we're used to prosthetic limbs and mechanical limbs, technology has just advanced to the cyborg level with a bionic hand that's hardwired to the brain. The two-way communication between mind and machine means that you can feel sensations on the hand in addition to controlling it with your brain. Depending on the success of the clinical trials in Switzerland, we may be seeing a real-life Six Million Dollar Man some day.
If you think smartphones are a high-tech way to exchange information, try telepathy. Using neural implants, researchers at Duke University sent electrical signals from one rat's brain to another rat's brain, telling it to push a lever. And it worked! Researchers aren't going to be opening skulls to test that process out on people anytime soon, but one scientist in the UK was able to achieve a very rudimentary form of brain-to-brain communication between humans by putting electrodes on the subjects' scalps. Basically, one person imagined moving his right or left arm, an action that was translated into a flashing light signal and sent to the other person's brain so she could do the same motion. That worked, too. Though that's not exactly Professor Xavier sending complicated instructions to the X-Men via brainwaves, it's one step closer to telepathy.
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