Skip to main content

We can all be Peter Parker: New suit gives wearer ‘SpiderSense’

Spider Man SuitAs all comic fans know, what makes Spider-Man successful at this superhero schtick is because he’s known for more than the whole sticking-to-walls thing he’s named after. No, it’s all the other powers and abilities that he gained at the same time (or invented; where would Spidey be without his webbing, after all?): The proportionate strength, the increased agility and… oh, yeah, the Spider-Sense. Now, a scientist from the University of Illinois in Chicago has built a suit that mimics that last ability for its wearers, taking us one step closer to our own crime-fighting futures.

As if to make the inspiration for his suit particularly clear, creator Victor Mateevitsi even named it “SpiderSense,” and described ways in which it could turn anybody into Peter Parker’s alter-ego – well, at least partially.

“When someone is punching Spider-Man, he feels the sensation and can avoid it,” Mateevitsi explains. “Our suit is the same concept.” The way it works is by picking up ultrasonic reflections from objects via seven tiny microphone modules embedded across the suit. When the ultrasound detects movement towards the user, it exerts pressure against the wearer via small robotic arms, essentially poking the wearer when something is incoming.


In testing, students wearing the suit have been able to respond to movement while blindfolded. During the experiment, the subjects were given cardboard “throwing stars” to use when they sensed they were about to be attacked, and “95 percent of the time, they were able to sense someone approaching to throw the star at them.” Why the subjects were given throwing stars as opposed to just turning towards their “attacker” or verbally identifying the direction is unknown, but it does fit in with the generally-nerdy idea of naming your invention after Spider-Man.

Mateevitsi and his team aim to present the SpiderSense suit at next month’s Augmented Human conference in Stuttgart, Germany, but their plans for the suit go far beyond its current state. “We humans have the senses that we are both with, and we can’t extend them,” the scientist said, “but there are some threats which are very deadly, but we can’t sense them, like radiation. Electronic sensors can feel those threats.”

Yes, it sounds a little bit like a less-invasive (thankfully) version of the rats that could “touch” infra-red light we covered a few weeks back, but the SpiderSense team is genuinely considering ways to expand the suit’s uses and capabilities in new directions. Also on the agenda is an attempt to see whether the suit could work as a way to help the visually-impaired. We can only hope that Mateevitsi decides that the incarnation of the suit will take its inspiration from Spidey’s fellow Marvel Comics character Daredevil (himself blind from the accident that gave him his superpowers) and name the suit “Radar Sense.”

Editors' Recommendations

Graeme McMillan
Former Digital Trends Contributor
A transplant from the west coast of Scotland to the west coast of America, Graeme is a freelance writer with a taste for pop…
Why AI will never rule the world
image depicting AI, with neurons branching out from humanoid head

Call it the Skynet hypothesis, Artificial General Intelligence, or the advent of the Singularity -- for years, AI experts and non-experts alike have fretted (and, for a small group, celebrated) the idea that artificial intelligence may one day become smarter than humans.

According to the theory, advances in AI -- specifically of the machine learning type that's able to take on new information and rewrite its code accordingly -- will eventually catch up with the wetware of the biological brain. In this interpretation of events, every AI advance from Jeopardy-winning IBM machines to the massive AI language model GPT-3 is taking humanity one step closer to an existential threat. We're literally building our soon-to-be-sentient successors.

Read more
The best hurricane trackers for Android and iOS in 2022
Truck caught in gale force winds.

Hurricane season strikes fear into the hearts of those who live in its direct path, as well as distanced loved ones who worry for their safety. If you've ever sat up all night in a state of panic for a family member caught home alone in the middle of a destructive storm, dependent only on intermittent live TV reports for updates, a hurricane tracker app is a must-have tool. There are plenty of hurricane trackers that can help you prepare for these perilous events, monitor their progress while underway, and assist in recovery. We've gathered the best apps for following storms, predicting storm paths, and delivering on-the-ground advice for shelter and emergency services. Most are free to download and are ad-supported. Premium versions remove ads and add additional features.

You may lose power during a storm, so consider purchasing a portable power source,  just in case. We have a few handy suggestions for some of the best portable generators and power stations available. 

Read more
Don’t buy the Meta Quest Pro for gaming. It’s a metaverse headset first
Meta Quest Pro enables 3D modeling in mixed reality.

Last week’s Meta Connect started off promising on the gaming front. Viewers got release dates for Iron Man VR, an upcoming Quest game that was previously a PS VR exclusive, as well as Among Us VR. Meta, which owns Facebook, also announced that it was acquiring three major VR game studios -- Armature Studio, Camouflaj Team, and Twisted Pixel -- although we don’t know what they’re working on just yet.

Unfortunately, that’s where the Meta Connect's gaming section mostly ended. Besides tiny glimpses and a look into fitness, video games were not the show's focus. Instead, CEO Mark Zuckerberg wanted to focus on what seemed to be his company’s real vision of VR's future, which involves a lot of legs and a lot of work with the Quest Pro, a mixed reality headset that'll cost a whopping $1,500.

Read more