If you were raised on a steady diet of Marvel comics, you’ve spent a fair amount of time wishing you has Spider-Man’s famous Spidey Sense. You’re certainly not alone in this dream, and Victor Mateevitsi, a grad student in computer science at University of Illinois at Chicago, has developed a suit that gives you precisely that.
After being bitten by a radioactive spider, Peter Parker/Spider-Man develops a tingling at the base of his skull that warns him about imminent danger, like someone sneaking up from behind or a goon taking a swing at him. Mateevitsi’s creation emulates this sensation, giving the wearer 360 degrees of coverage that is so sensitive you can even navigate with your eyes closed.
Mateevitsi tells New Scientist, “When someone is punching Spider-Man, he feels the sensation and can avoid it.” His suit operates on along the same lines.
Dubbed SpiderSense, the contraption is made up of seven modules placed around the suit. Each component contains small, robotic arms and microphones that emit and receive ultrasonic sounds bouncing around your environment. The way this functions is actually more similar to Daredevil’s heightened senses that he uses to make his way through the world, but we’ll let that slide. When the mics pick up a person or object approaching, the robot arms apply pressure to the appropriate part of the body to indicate where the potential danger is coming from.
Staying true to the comic book nature of this project, the testing process involved ninjas and throwing stars. Mateevitsi blindfolded able-bodied subjects, gave them cardboard stars, and told them take down any “attackers” they felt approaching. That sounds like a lot of fun.
According to Mateevitsi, “Ninety five per cent of the time they were able to sense someone approaching and throw the star at them.”
As superhero-esque as this project appears, the team does envision a handful of more practical applications as well. Sensors on the back could be a huge safety boost for bicycle riders and motorcyclists looking for another layer of awareness on the roadways, and the possibilities for the visually impaired are pretty apparent.