New Technology Gives You Superman Powers

Carnegie Mellon University has created technology that uses WiFi to give users x-ray vision.

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

superman x-ray vision

With the high-profile departure of Henry Cavill from James Gunn’s all-new DCU, many fans have understandably been wondering who will play Superman in future films. However, thanks to cutting-edge research from Carnegie Mellon University, the next Superman could be … well … you. As Vice reports, researchers have figured out how to use WiFi to give you one of Superman’s most iconic powers: x-ray vision.

Of course, Superman comes by his own x-ray vision quite honestly in the comics and later shows and movies. He would have been more like a human on the planet Krypton, but his parents sent him rocketing away from that dying planet right before it exploded. Once Superman landed on planet Earth, our yellow sun gave him a variety of amazing powers that included flight, super-strength, laser vision, x-ray vision, and so much more.

Considering that we’re still working on getting people to Mars, you won’t be able to visit far-off solar systems anytime soon to discover whether other types of suns might give you fantastic powers. But these researchers have discovered how to use DensePose to provide an equivalent to Superman’s famous x-ray vision. Originally, DensePose was designed to map all the pixels on a person’s body in photos taken of that person.

DensePose x-ray vision

By itself, pixel-mapping doesn’t turn anyone into Superman, but with the help of AI and deep neural networks, it can give you x-ray vision thanks to WiFi. The technology is now there to use the phase and amplitude of WiFi signals from various routers to map coordinates on the bodies of those around us. While this is a real breakthrough for such technology, different researchers have been refining methods of seeing people through walls for nearly a decade.

Back in 2013, MIT researchers discovered how to use cellphone signals to see through the very walls around them. Five years later, another MIT team figured out how to use WiFi to detect when people were in another room and then translate that info into stick figures. While this wasn’t quite as fluid as Superman’s own x-ray vision, this latest breakthrough gives us our best chance yet to see the world the way that the last son of Krypton does: with greater clarity about what we are seeing.

While it’s awesome to think of everything you could do with this particular Superman power, there are many who raise valid privacy concerns when it comes to technology giving other people x-ray vision. In short, these critics worry that this tech could be used to spy on other people, but the researchers behind this latest innovation claim that the technology helps “protect individuals’ privacy and the required equipment can be bought at a reasonable price.” Furthermore, they believe that “this technology may be scaled to monitor the well-being of elder people or just identify suspicious behaviors at home.”

Using a high-tech version of Superman’s x-ray vision to help monitor the elderly sounds good on paper, and it’s definitely a big upgrade over the days of “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” However, the sheer ambiguity of the “suspicious behaviors” line has many concerned with how these behaviors will be identified (the researchers have said nothing to this point) or how more powerful forces such as corporations and government agencies might use this tech to spy on people. In a world where the worst people can assume the powers of Superman for nefarious purposes, you might find yourself wanting some high-tech Kryptonite of your own.