10 Batman gadgets you can (almost) get today

Besides being in tip-top shape and having a detective's intuition that rivals Sherlock Holmes, billionaire Bruce Wayne has an arsenal of high-tech toys and vehicles that would make even James Bond's Q drool. It's part of the Caped Crusader's major appeal. He's not faster than a speeding bullet or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound — he's just a man. A man with sweet, sweet gadgetry.

So just how realistic is Batman? Could you fill the Dark Knight's cowl if you had his arsenal of wonderful toys? We took a look at all of batman's incarnations — from the comics to the movies to the super-camp '60s farce — and gave 10 of Mr. Wayne's most popular tech toys a reality check.



10-bat-gadgets-batarangs.jpg 1. The Batarang

What is it? Batman's metal bat-shaped boomerang has served him in many forms: with a line attached to it for scaling walls, as an explosive, or as a boomerang with an electric charge, just to name a few. They've since evolved into the razor-edged quasi-shuriken featured in today's movies, comics and cartoons.

Is it feasible? As either a boomerang or a shuriken, Batman's staple ranged weapons are sound. With a metal boomerang, however, Batman would have to be an expert thrower and, more importantly, catcher, especially if his batarang had any sharp edges. His fancier batarangs such as the exploding variety haven't really been explored here in the real world, though maybe the idea of taping a grenade to a throwing knife just hasn't seemed like a good one.

Similar real-world technology:
• Well, er, boomerangs
Shuriken, too



10-bat-gadgets-grapple-gun.jpg2. The Grapple Gun

What is it? The grapple gun Batman uses actually debuted on the silver screen in 1989's Batman, where it appeared as a spear-tipped, spring-loaded projectile. Since then, the grapple gun has been in pretty much all of the shows and comics in one form or another. In Batman & Robin it could be loaded onto Batman's belt, and in it's newest incarnation it's fired by compressed air, is magnetic, and can launch a hook as well as the classic dart.

Is it feasible? Tossing up a hook trailing a line is simple enough, and we do have the technology to make grappling-hook launchers, though they're considerably larger than Batman's handheld unit. They have to be, to fit a good length of cable. Batman uses line that's so thin the whole spool fits in such a compact device. Really, it's all about the way Bats handles the line — swinging from buildings just like Spider-Man — that makes things a little less feasible.

Similar real-world technology:
• An MIT student's belt-affixed automatic ascender
T-PLS grappling hook launcher (Thankfully Batman's is smaller.)
• The Wizard escape system uses a line, though doesn't grapple



10-bat-gadgets-goo-gun.jpg 3. The Goo Gun

What is it? As seen in Batman Forever in 1995, Batman's sparkly blue goo-firing gun represents one of the Caped Crusader's more modern nonlethal options. It fires a sticky, adhesive substance that gunks up evil doers and disables them.

Is it feasible? The goo gun is a lot like the sticky foam launchers that were developed for law enforcement. It'd be dangerous to try to foam down an adversary with a gun, but in large crowd-control situations that go south, sticky foam is a far more gentle takedown method than bean bags or fire hoses, and effective to boot.

Similar real-world technology:
Stick foam: like Silly String, but for adults
Sticky traps for pest control are actually rather similar



4. The Bat-Shark Repellent

What is it? A spray that makes sharks go away. Proof positive that no technology, no matter how ridiculous, is useful in Batman's line of work.

Is it feasible? Serious interest in a shark repellent goes back all the way to World War II, when scientists tried to cook something up to protect downed aviators and naval crew. It was found that the scent of a dead shark spooks living ones, and for a while using copper-acetate solution was a popular idea. In practice, however, sharks weren't all that bothered, and current endeavors to repel the beasts include electric shocks and new chemicals. A shark repellent aerosol, though? Maybe if you're battling a land shark.

Similar real-world technology:
• The Wasp Knife, a blade with a CO2 cartridge inside
• The Shark Shield, an electric signal generator for surf boards
• A ring of magnetic barriers
• A pressurized air tank and an M1 Garand rifle.



10-bat-gadgets-propellers.jpg 5. Heel Propellers

What are they? Comic fans can thank Batman: Hush for giving Bats a great new look, but not for impressive gadgetry. It included one of Batman's lesser known tricks up his sleeve heel: built-in boot propellers. That's just lazy.

Are they feasible? I ask you this: does it matter? Sure, maybe there's some sense behind it, but Batman is a world-class diver and swimmer. I can imagine a scenario where he's traveling a long distance underwater and he needs to conserve his strength, but at the same time that's what he's all about — strength. Let the man swim farther than the rest of us can imagine. Hell, take the Bat-Sub if you really must, Batman.

Similar real-world technology:
DARPA's PowerSwim, an aquatic swimming-enhancement suit
• A pair of $10 flippers
• Your legs



10-bat-gadgets-memory-cape.jpg 6. Memory Fiber Cape

What is it? First seen in Batman Begins, when Batman charges his cape with an electric current, the material becomes rigid and takes on a shape mimicking bat wings. He can then use his cape like a glider and, next to his grappling hook, it's the closest he comes to actually flying.

Is it feasible? There are studies that involve getting substances and fibers to react to electricity, and the idea of a shape-shifting anything excites pretty much everyone. In relation to Batman, the tricky part is making a cape which can remember its shape, let alone let you glide like Bat-boy here. The movie crew on Batman Begins did actually run a charge through Christian Bale's cape, which was made from parachute-grade nylon. They employed a technique used for military and police gear called electrostatic flocking, which, far from letting Batman glide, gives his cape that seamless, billowing look.

Similar real-world technology:
Electrostatic flocking runs a charge under the fabric, giving it that signature look
Electrorheological fluids act much in the same way
• Concepts that involve technologies that allow devices to morph



10-bat-gadgets-batman-beyond.jpg 7. Jet Boots

What are they? Rather than swing using the grapple gun or batarang, the leading man of the sadly-short-lived-cartoon Batman Beyond, Terry McGinnis, had a pair of jet boots that allowed him to soar instead. We'll roll with it since the show took place in the future, and because it was so good besides. Terry's suit, pictured above, features a long list of high-tech improvements, but jet boots are probably the most game-changing compared Batman's modern equipment.

Are they feasible? There have been some semi-successful attempts at creating jetpacks, though their range is usually very limited. And if there ever is an age where jet boots truly become commonplace, they'd better build a memorial for all of the dead test pilots.

Similar real-world technology:
• For every crazy idea, there's a crazier guy ready to try it
• A set of diesel-powered rocket boots
• This bulky Rocket Belt



10-bat-gadgets-tumbler.jpg 8. The Batmobile

What is it? Batman's sweet ride. The Batmobile has evolved a ton from the 1966 Lincoln Futura-inspired roadster Batman and Robin zipped around in, becoming more sleek and sinister for Tim Burton's Batman movies, and imposing for Batman Begins. It's been equipped with everything from machine guns to autopilot, a jet engine, a rear-firing tack launcher, an oil slick nozzle and, in Batman Forever, it could even tip up its nose and climb sheer surfaces.

Is it feasible? Sure, on paper. Strapping a jet engine to a car isn't too bright unless you know what you're doing, but I imagine very few people do. Scaling vertical surfaces with a car like the Dark Knight did in Batman Forever is also a ways off. We're probably closer to the Tumbler in Batman Begins with modular, high-speed tank units such as the U.S. military's Stryker, than having a full-on, stunt-performing, gadget-laden roadster like older Batmobiles. Not all is lost, however. You could still simulate some of the Batmobile's features, such as the tack launcher and oil slick dispenser, simply by opening up your window and tossing or pouring whatever is appropriate into your wake.

Similar real-world technology:
• The jet car, top speed 800 mph, made and driven by professionals
• Another jet car, made and driven by an idiot
• Several replicas (obviously without the crazy bells and whistles) exist for many of the incarnations
• A computer made to look like the Tumbler — only travels the Internet highway
• Cars in development that drive themselves



batman_begins-bat-call.jpg 9. Sonic Bat-Call

What is it? For anyone else, it'd be a nightmare. For Batman, it's like a smokescreen. He's got an emitter, usually located in the heel of his boot, that'll call forth of swarm of bats to surround him and cause a general ruckus.

Is it feasible? Believe it or not, there are some folks out there who want bats around, primarily for mosquito control. Usually the methods employed to attract them aren't all that fancy — just set up your house in such away as to entice bats. This might involve anything from building bat shelters to installing ponds and planting your greenery just so. In science, sonic devices are often used to study bats, not so much to attract them.

Similar real-world technology:
• Scientists are trying to train fish along the same lines
• Meticulous home landscaping (Thanks, Becky!)



10-bat-gadgets-batpod.jpg 10. The Batpod

What is it? At first glance, you may think the Batpod is simply a motorcycle. It is, but with a few of the kind of quirks we like here at DVICE. The new vehicle will roll onto the screen this Friday in Batman: Dark Knight, and it has motors located inside the tire cavities as well as steering controlled by Batman's body rather than a set of handles. It's armed to the teeth with machines guns, cannons, grenade launchers and grappling hooks, though we're sure ol' Bats still wouldn't hurt a fly with any of it.

Is it feasible? All the separate components already exist, though they haven't been slapped together yet (that'd be pretty severely illegal). The Batpod's most interesting feature, its in-wheel engine, is being experimented along the lines of both stuffing an engine into a wheel, or adding engine-aiding components to the wheel construction to improve overall performance of a vehicle.

Similar real-world technology:
• Motorcycles with wheel engines
• A variety of unicycle concepts have the driver's weight and positioning guiding the unit