Cape Not Included

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Cape Not Included

Sending a man to outer space once seemed but fantasy—a vision out of a comic book—until scientists and engineers proved that space travel is possible, sans cape and spandex suit. Indeed, companies such as Virgin Galactic may soon make space tourism possible for consumers. Even though mere mortals lack super powers, new technologies are pushing the boundaries of what is humanly possible, bringing science fiction ever closer to reality. Who would have believed, for example, that a toy such as Mattel's Mindflex (MAT) would allow people to move objects mentally, or that scientists could bend light rays to make objects invisible? Certain of these technologies are already commercially available. Others not yet viable remain in the early stages of development. The U.S. government has been funding research for a number of superhuman products with military applications: For one, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has backed a $50 million project known as Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation, which includes suits that can make people many times stronger. "Science works in small steps," says Case Western Reserve associate professor Harihara Baskaran. Still, anyone who has ever wanted to breathe underwater like Aquaman or blast off like the Rocketeer may be surprised to learn that new devices are exploring the potential for making the impossible real.

Click here to see commercially available technologies, and those still under development, that may one day make us superhuman.