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Will Technology Create Real Superheroes and Supervillains?

Updated on April 19, 2016

The Making of Real Life Superheroes and Villains

Some superheroes are created through radioactive accidents which cause mutations. Others are from another world, or have supernatural powers. But there is another group, one that includes some of the most popular comic book and movie characters of all time, who made themselves into superheroes using technology.

Batman is a classic example - a rich man who uses his resources to create all of the gadgets he needs to become a superhero. Iron man is another excellent example. But could a wealthy and driven person really become a superhero?

Just a decade ago the idea that somebody could harness technology to become a real life superhero or super villain would have been laughable. Superhuman powers were pure fiction and nothing more. But today things have changed. Already most of the superpowers which you will find in comics books have been recreated in some way in the real world. Even superpowers which were originally imagined as being created through some mysterious radioactive accident, supernatural or alien agency can today be replicated through technology.

Not only that, but advanced technology is becoming increasingly available and accessible for ordinary people to use and tinker with themselves. As distributed manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing and electronics hacking continue to grow in popularity and evolve in capability dangerous technologies will also be much harder to suppress in the future. Already the world's first 3D printed weapons have been produced. In the future the trade in illegal arms and dangerous technologies may not require real world connections and risky face-to-face deals - just a computer and with an internet connection will suffice.

So are the conditions now in place for real world superheroes and supervillains to emerge? In this article I will look at some of the most notable real life technologies and innovations which could contribute to the creation of a real life superhero.

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Super Strength with The Power Assist Suit / Exoskeleton

It is well known that the military is very interested in the development of power assist exoskeletons. These are wearable suits which will give soldiers superhuman strength, speed and endurance. But they are not the only ones developing such technology. There are plenty of jobs where a a bit of extra strength would come in handy, from agricultural workers to care assistants. That means that there are plenty of commercial companies working on the development of wearable suits that give you superhuman strength.

Once this technology beings to mature it is easy to imagine that the next step will be to cover the suit in armoured plating - the kind which would be too heavy for a person to wear normally, the kind, perhaps, that is currently used on armoured vehicles...

It is also worth noting that this is one of the technologies which you could easily imagine making its way into criminal circles. A power assist arm for example, giving a person superhuman punching power, would not only be a great weapon for criminals but would also be a powerful way to build a reputation and intimidate enemies. It seems inevitable to me that this kind of technology will eventually find its way into the hands of criminals, and could provide the first step down the road to the creation of a supervillain.

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Jetpack Man

The Power of Flight

Being able to fly is one of the most common super powers. It is also amongst the easiest to recreate using technology. Already a man called Yves Rossy has created a Jet Pack - a piece of kit small enough to wear and walk around - which lets him fly alongside jet aircraft, as you can see in the video to the right.

It is not hard to imagine that at some point in the future such technology could be integrated into a larger armoured power-assist suit of the kind described above. This would allow someone to wear the jet pack without affecting their strength, speed and ordinary agility on the ground.

Invisibility Cloaks - Metamaterials

Although a completely effective invisibility cloak has yet to be made, the science behind it is perfectly sound and reasonably well understood - meaning that it is almost certainly only a matter of time. There have been a few contenders over the years in the field of invisibility technology, most of which have had only limited successes - making static objects look almost invisible from a distance, but failing on anything more impressive. But the recent development of 'metamaterials' is set to change this. Metamaterials are effectively able to bend light around themselves, rendering themselves (and anything within them) invisible.

Stanford Prof Jennifer Dionne on Metamaterials

The Right Place at the Right Time

One of the key parts of being a superhero is being in the right place at the right time to solve crimes. Spiderman has his tingling 'spider sense' to alert him when a crime is taking place, while batman is summoned by the police chief when he is needed.

A future superhero may just have a piece of computer software to tell him when and where crimes are taking place. Police forces in several countries are already using 'pre-crime' software which analyses huge amounts of information to generate crime maps telling them where crimes are likely to occur. Police in London, for example, are using a program called PredPol, which you can read about in this article.

With technology like that available our future superheroes will have no trouble knowing which areas to patrol.

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X-Ray Vision: MIT Invention Lets Users See Through Walls

Super Learning

Superheroes have to be masters of every martial art imaginable. Learning all of that stuff is a pretty difficult task, but technology can help here too. If Google's Ray Kurzweil is right then in the future we will be able to download things directly to our minds, learning new skills as we sleep.

But even before then there is a massive potential for accelerated learning. Microsofts Kinnect already has a fighting game which claims to teach you real martial arts moves - so in the future perhaps will all be able to access what amounts to one-on-one tuition from the world's top masters, with beady eyes watching every part of our movements to ensure that we execute each technique perfectly.

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Artificial Gills

Scuba diving gear can only take you so far and for so long. You can't go too deep, and you need to come back up before your oxygen runs out. But an Israeli company called LikeAFish is aiming to change all that. The artificial gills which this firm is developing can harvest oxygen from the water in the same way that a fish does, potentially offering us all the power of Aquaman.

Spiderman Climbing Suit

Scientists have already created a material which could potentially enable anyone to climb walls like Spiderman. The carbon nanotube material was invented by scientists trying to mimic the way that geckos are able to effortlessly climb walls.

As far back as 2007 an Italian engineer calculated that an average weight person wearing gloves and boots made from carbon nanotubes and shaped like gecko feet would be easily able to scale sheer vertical walls. According to Pungo we are now 'not very far' from the creation of a 'Spider-man suit'.


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Will There be Real Life Superheroes and Supervillains in the Future?

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    • KoraleeP profile image

      Koralee Phillips 3 years ago from Vernon British Columbia Canada

      Very interesting Hub! After reading "Will Technology Create Real Superheroes and Supervillians," I think people will have super hero capabilities, but will have to do a lot of preparation..suiting up, etc. before they can perform. So I could see governments using this technology long before others, to avoid Supervillian's from getting a hold of them.

      The power assist suit, is amazing because it would be perfect for natural disasters and search teams to use the suit to find people buried under rubble.

      The Jet Pack Man was awesome to watch. But, as it is right now, I don't see a connection to creating super hero capacities because his invention works from the sky downwards. It needs to work taking flight from the ground upwards to be effective.

      Metamaterials, adds depth to the saying, "A Fly on the Wall."

      Pre-crime software will definitely help law enforcement do their job more effectively.

      Superlearning, is interesting, but also a little scary. In relation to how much faster terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda could perform their militant training using this software. Although I realize governments could as well.

      I would like to follow how technology advances with artificial gills and the Spiderman Suit.

      Thanks for sharing all your research and making me think this morning. Voted up interesting and sharing.

    • electronician profile image
      Author

      Dean Walsh 3 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks KoraleeP, you are definitely right about governments using this stuff before people - and I have a feeling it will be super villains rather than heroes if anything.

    • NateB11 profile image

      Nathan Bernardo 3 years ago from California, United States of America

      This brought me back to my boyhood fantasies. Very fun and fascinating stuff. I'd love to have some of these gadgets and equipment.

      I can see that it could end up in the wrong hands.

      The suit that makes you stronger and the shoes that make you faster are couple of my favorites here. Also, Jet Man is pretty cool. All of it is pretty amazing.

    • Geekdom profile image

      Geekdom 3 years ago

      Great Hub! I loved the technology tied into superpowers.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Terrific technology hub with so many implications. In the future this stuff may really create a whole new universe of the haves and have nots. Uh-oh. Voted way up +++, sharing, pinning.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

      So interesting to think about the topic of what technology might create. Reminds me of That Hideous Strength from C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy--he had incredible foresight.

      The Atlas Powered Rope Ascender is a great example of what thinking outside the box can produce. Now for a quick/safe descent! We live in interesting times…

    • electronician profile image
      Author

      Dean Walsh 3 years ago from Birmingham, England

      It always amazes me how much old SF writers like CS Lewis did actually get right.

    • Angie Martin profile image

      Angie Martin 3 years ago from Frazier Park, California

      Awesome hub! I've often wondered about technological advancements and whether we could have a real-life Batman. I think it's absolutely possible and probable that we will see this in the future.

    • electronician profile image
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      Dean Walsh 3 years ago from Birmingham, England

      I hope so!

    • profile image

      Austin 2 years ago

      I've thought about this a lot before. The part about climbing walls is amazing and I never thought about that in that way. You replied to an earlier comment that you think it will be super villains instead of superheroes, I think it will be both. There are already superheroes, just without powers. As technology progresses, I see these same superheroes developing they're own "Super powers" to help them fight crime.

    • electronician profile image
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      Dean Walsh 2 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks Austin, I have been known to be a bit of a pessimist so its nice to read a more optimistic response!

    • Projectlazy profile image

      Projectlazy 2 years ago

      I'm going to say probably not. Even if the tech got to a workable level and found it's way into the publics hands the army and police would still have a better version of it. The point of super heroes is they do what is to big for the police or army.

    • profile image

      Ilyas 2 years ago

      This would be so cool if it happened!

    • Taranwanderer profile image

      Taranwanderer 17 months ago

      Wow - very interesting. There could very well be tech-assisted metahumans in the future, but I don't thin they would be anything like the Hulk or Superman. Only lesser (much lesser) heroes could possibly be simulated. Excellent work!

    • zaton profile image

      Zaton-Taran 2 weeks ago from California

      I'm looking for superheroes on the future that are on par with Superman, not Batman. The latter is fairly easy to simulate. Nice work on the article, though.

      http://pinstor.us/articles/hulk-vs-superman-a-figh...

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