Superheroes have had quite a resurgence lately, appearing all over the big and small screen as well as in comic books. From The Avengers to the Arrow, the masked crusaders possess powers we mere humans can only dream of having.
But in today’s world, the power of science is almost equal to that of fiction. Like Tony Stark and his Iron Man suit, humans nowadays are using various kinds of enhancements and devices to gain superpowers (or a semblance of superpowers, at least) that could lead to big changes in the way society operates. Here are a few of them.
First rats, then humans? In February, scientists at Duke University connected the brains of two lab rats using wire implants. Cables connected to the wires enabled the rats to communicate “brain to brain.” In a series of experiments, one rat was able to interpret the signals of the other rat about 70% of the time. A rat at Duke was even linked to a rat in Brazil, with similar success. Could there come a day soon when we won’t need speech or keyboards to communicate?
2. Super Strength
So Superman can lift cars with one hand? Well, Japanese scientists have developed a “cybernetic exoskeleton” that is essentially a wearable robot. We’re not quite at the car-lifting stage yet, but the “muscle suit” these scientists have developed can significantly augment the strength of the wearer’s back and arms. That particular muscle suit is designed to use for work where heavy lifting is required, but the scientists have also devised a lightweight muscle suit that aims to help the elderly move about more easily.
Jean Grey from X-Men could move objects with her mind, and so could Carrie from the classic Stephen King novel. While things could get dangerous if humans actually had telekinesis at the level of those characters, so far telekinesis in the real world only consists of the manipulation of a robotic arm by a woman’s mind. A quadriplegic woman had two electrodes inserted into her brain, which were subsequently used to control the arm. Within three months, she was able to move the arm with her thoughts so deftly that she could make it feed her a bar of chocolate.
4. Super Smarts
Forget extreme strength, what about an extreme brain? There are already a variety of stimulants out there that can help the brain focus (such as drugs aimed to treat ADD and ADHD), but what about something that could augment your brain so that you could learn complex tasks very quickly?
A procedure called tDCS (transcranial direct current stimulation) passes electronic current through a specific section of your brain, making the neurons more sensitive and making it easier to you to learn how to do things. Scientists are also looking at it as a new way to treat depression.
5. Super Eyeballs
This list wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Google Glass. Rather than shooting out a burning beam of energy like Cyclops of X-Men, these glasses from Google instead aim to make “wearable computing” the way of the future. Wearing the innovative Glass, you’ll be able to capture video and photos just by using voice commands and looking wherever you want to record.
You’ll be able to see Google Maps laid over your field of vision, dictate messages, and much more. It remains to be seen whether people will actually want to have this superpower (and how distracting it will be), but we should find out soon — it seems that Glass will be available to the public sometime this year.