Spider-Man’s “spider-sense” may be a power that changes depending on the writer, but it is an actual “power” that insects have to some degree: The ability to sense oncoming forces and skitter out of their way. Cockroaches are infamous hard to stomp because of this.
Now, science has figured out a way to give all of us this power, and needless to say, it involves getting groped by robots.
Victor Mateevitsi, a computer science student at the University of Illinois, Chicago, has developed a suit that gives you a “spider-sense”. The core of the suit is a robot arm connected to a microphone module. Each module projects and receives ultrasonics, making it more like a bat-sense than anything else. If the module detects someone approaching, the robot arm places pressure on you to let you know what direction the “threat” is coming from.
Just how effective is this suit? So effective you literally don’t need eyes to use it:
Even cooler than the suit itself may be Mateevitsi’s methods for testing it. He blindfolded his suited-up subjects, asked them to stand outside and “feel” for approaching attackers. Each subject was given cardboard throwing stars to tap into their inner ninja and use whenever they sensed someone approaching.
“Ninety five per cent of the time they were able to sense someone approaching and throw the star at them,” said Mateevitsi.
This may sound like a neat toy, but the practical applications of this work are actually fairly important. For example, firefighters and other first responders could at some point incorporate this technology into their suits, allowing them to move around more effectively in environments with limited visibility. Car companies could incorporate it into seats to let drivers know about possible accidents in foggy areas. It can offer more assistance to the blind to help them get around more safely.
In short, yeah, it’s really cool to be Spider-Man, but Mateevitsi’s work may also be saving lives, in the long run. Chalk up another plus for comic books.