Engineers today are using their creativity to build a variety of superhero-like technologies that enhance our human capabilities, including exosuits, invisibility cloaks, and wall-scaling gloves.

What drives these researchers? Were they all comic-book reading dreamers? Or is a need to imagine bigger and better human capabilities just a natural part of who we are?

In this episode of Here's an Idea, we talk with researchers whose technologies are giving people the capabilities of their favorite superheroes, from Spider-Man to Iron-Man. With some help from comic book writer Vita Ayala, we examine the motivations behind their projects, and what these impulses might say about our own desire to be super. You can listen to the episode below.

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Episode highlights include:

  • Paul Steen, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Cornell, spoke with Tech Briefs about a new kind of adhesive – and how soon you can expect to find 'Spider-Man' gloves at your local Wal-Mart.
  • Inspired by cephalopods, UC-Irvine Professor Alon Gorodetsky has led the development of a material that provides thermal invisibility.
  • The U.S. Special Forces is building the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS – frequently referred to as a real-life 'Iron-Man' suit in the press. Army Colonel Jim Miller, director of the acquisition task force in charge of designing TALOS, spoke to Tech Briefs about the suit and his respect for the elite athletes who wear it.
  • Arizona State University Professor Tom Sugar and his team are designing exoskeleton devices – not to make us full-fledged Iron-Men and Women, but more to give everyone a little bit better mobility. Although, they did design a jetpack.


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