DARPA's Z-Man Super-Gloves Could Have You Climbing Walls Like Spider-Man
Here's some intriguing tech news for your Tuesday: The U.S. military is channelling Spider-Man with their Z-Man program. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA, has developed a new model of advanced climbing gloves, which allow a wearer to scale vertical walls with no other equipment necessary. The agency demonstrated the first trial for the gloves on Sunday, when a man weighing about 215 pounds successfully scaled 25 feet up and down a glass surface. At one point, they threw an extra 50 pounds or so on his beck, and the gloves still held fast.
The actual science behind the Spider-Man gloves haven't been released to the public — this is a defense department project, after all, and they're usually not very keen about broadcasting high-tech schematics for public consumption. What is known is that the gloves were inspired by the physical capabilities of the gecko — the tiny lizards which can hang their entire body weight on a single toe, thanks to the tiny, sticking bristles that lie underneath.
It's not just a concept in the Spider-Man franchise, either — you might remember Tom Cruise scaling the outside of Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, with a similarly-functioning set of super-gloves in the latest Mission Impossible.
Of course, the real-world uses are most important, more so than the movies they remind us about. And as is often the case with the most advanced research, this is being carried out in service of the military. It's not very hard to imagine the benefits that U.S. forces could gain from such devices — they'll be a lot more mobile, and a lot harder to contain once the gloves are ready for prime time.
The goal is to allow a soldier carrying the full weight of their combat equipment to clamber up the wall safely and securely, and by the sounds of things, they're not that far off.
It's hard to say whether this technology will ever be released to the public. After all, gloves that let people climb walls at at will seem dangerous enough that there could be some level of regulation involved — but there's almost definitely going to be demand for it. We really want a pair, and we can't be the only ones, can we?
Images: The Amazing Spider-Man 2/Columbia Pictures