The weapons of the heroes in the movies, such as the suits of Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Black Panther, and Captain America’s shield, are the whole set of the exciting future technologies. The technologies in the movies are not just limited to imagination but may become a part of our daily lives one day, such as ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Back to the Future’. Is it possible to practically make the weapons of Marvel heroes?
The suits of Iron Man, Spider-Man and Black Panther
The hero representing the Avengers is undoubtedly Iron Man who marked the beginning of Marvel. The first thing that comes to mind for Iron Man is his suit. Iron Man’s suit is truly a collection of employing cutting-edge science and technology. Without the suit, Iron Man is actually just an ordinary man.
Iron Man’s suit is getting closer to reality due to rapid advances in wearable robotic technologies. Wearable robots have been developed to reduce the burden on the increasing weight of loads carried by soldiers on a march. The wearable robot is worn on the body of a soldier to enhance the lack of muscle strength. Recently, various wearable robots are being developed to reduce the workload of workers who work for a long time in industrial fields or to rehabilitate the disabled.
In 2020, an American robotics company ‘Sarcos Robotics’ unveiled ‘Guardian XO’, a full-body wearable robotic exoskeleton. A human wearing the Guardian XO can produce more than 20 times the strength of an average person. When lifting a 90kg object, it feels like weighing about 5kg. The wearable robots developed up to date required a lot of time to put on and take off, but the Guardian XO has the advantage of being able to quickly escape in an emergency situation because the detachment time is only 30 seconds.
Recently, flying suits are also in development. In May 2021, the British Royal Marines released a video of a test flight of someone wearing a ‘jet suit’ to board a warship. The jet suit consists of five engines and is capable of flying for 10 minutes at a speed of 128 km/h reaching an altitude of up to 3,600 m and is quickly embarked on the sea. A British company ‘Gravity Industries’, which developed the jet suit, conducted a test flight of a rescuer in mountainous terrain in September last year. The rescuer in the jet suit accessed the areas that vehicles are hard to reach and easily moved heavy medical equipment.
Not only the wearable robots with rigid exoskeletons but also soft wearable robots that can be worn as clothes like those of Black Panther or Spider-Man are in development. Because most metallic exoskeletons are bulky, the function of natural movements is limited. The core of the soft wearable robots is high-tech textiles. The research team known as a pioneer led by Connor Walsh, the Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University in the United States, developed a wearable robot that can assist both walking and running in 2019. The robot, which can be worn like pants, is operated by pulling on the structure surrounding the muscle with a micromotor and wire inside the textiles to increase its strength. The soft wearable robots are expected to be developed faster in the future because they are light, soft, and easy to wear.
The artificial intelligence assistant like Jarvis
Another important weapon of Iron Man armed with cutting-edge technology is ‘Jarvis’, an artificial intelligence (AI) assistant with powerful abilities. Jarvis serves not only tasks of Tony Stark (Iron Man), but also assists in Iron Man’s battles. Jarvis makes jokes with Tony and even expresses emotions like a human being. In fact, we are already familiar with AI speakers. However, they can only provide fixed responses to some limited questions. Communication between humans and artificial intelligence still seems a distant prospect.
But experts believe that it is only a matter of time. In May 2021, Google unveiled a new AI language model called ‘LaMDA’ and demonstrated how Pluto in virtual reality that is applied with LaMDA communicates with a human. LaMDA did not just provide learned answers like the existing AI speakers but was able to have a natural conversation like a human with a personality. After learning from millions of data related to Pluto, LaMDA came up with answers by combining the appropriate concepts on its own like a human. We do not have to repeat the same conversation when communicating with LaMDA.Google is currently working on LaMDA as a conversation-oriented service, but it will expand the scope of technology to audio and video in the future. Local major corporations, including Naver, are also working on their ways to develop similar AI systems. AI technology has now entered into the stage of competing for its scale and speed. It might not be too far away to see Jarvis in real life.
Captain America’s shield made of the perfect metal, vibranium
Captain America already has physical abilities that exceed human limits by injecting the serum of the Super Soldier, but it is the shield that makes Captain America stronger. Captain America’s shield is made of the rare metal called ‘vibranium’ that appears in the Marvel Universe. Vibranium is the metal from an alien planet, stronger than steel, but much lighter in weight and absorbs vibrations. So, it can be nearly indestructible from all enemy attacks.
If there is no material such as vibranium in this real world, it can be created. Scientists are constantly researching to develop outstanding new materials. Graphene, which is already so famous that people may have heard of it, is called ‘the nanomaterial of dream’ and is most actively studied. Graphene is known to be more than 10 times more bulletproof than steel and more than twice as strong as Kevlar, which is widely used in body armor. In 2014, the research team led by Jae-Hwang Lee, Associate Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Massachusetts in the United States, published a research result showing that the bullet’s speed slowed down when 30~300 layers of Graphene have collided with a glass bullet at a speed similar to that of a real gun. This was because the speed of kinetic energy propagating in Graphene was 22 times faster than that of a bullet, so the collision energy was dispersed throughout Graphene. The research team analyzed that even 1 million layers of Graphene would be only 0.3 mm, so if it was made of the same thickness as the actual bulletproof vest, the bulletproof effects would be higher. If new and advanced materials such as Graphene are developed, Captain America’s shield may not be just an illusion in the movie.