San Diego Comic-Con is all about the celebration of geek culture and, in particular, the world of superheroes. And there is no question that by the time it’s all over, you’ve managed to tap into your inner child. In fact, on the very first day, we believed a man could fly.
And, no, it has nothing to do with Superman: The Movie, which popularized that particular phrase. It has completely to do with British inventor and former soldier Richard Browning, who, adorned in what looks like Iron Man-inspired technology, lifted off the ground and flew down the street, hovering for several seconds before touching down again. Needless to say we believed and we had our minds blown.
Browning was brought to San Diego by Dent, a community of entrepreneurs, technologists, executives, investors and creatives who are, as they say, driven to "put a dent in the universe."His own company is Gravity, which seems like a bit of an oxymoron when you consider what he’s been accomplishing. Here’s the official website’s description of the company: “Gravity has gone from an audacious dream to a patent-pending technology powering the world’s first human propulsion flight, all in less than 12 months. Our vision is to build an entirely new generation of human flight systems for commercial and entertainment applications…. Our mission is to build an inspirational technology company by re-imagining the future of human flight and pioneering aeronautical innovation.”
Says Browning, “I’ve got this belief that the human mind and body is a pretty amazing machine and rather than put that into a machine, what about augmenting them with a machine? Just how close can you get to human-powered flight in a completely reimagined way? I think I’ve always been just on the edge of the crowd, wondering what’s beyond it. In a strange way, this project started with a question around just what you could achieve by combining the human body, the human mind and the best of technology.”
Experimentation began by placing an engine within a washing machine in the garage and cranking the throttle to 60%, which nearly flipped the washing machine upside down. Convinced there was something worth playing with, one engine led to another, leading to engines being strapped to his arms — and the arms remaining attached to his body (always an encouraging sign).
In the included exclusive videos, you can meet Browning himself. In this FHM interview conducted at the Mission Brewery on the outskirts of San Diego Comic-Con, he describes his inspiration for the exo-suit he’s created, the feeling of what it’s like to fly and some of the ultimate plans for this technology. On the latter point, much of it is inspirational, while there is the tiniest sense of foreboding in the fact that he admits to having had conversations with the special forces of both America and Britain. Military applications aren’t difficult to imagine.
But that being said, Browning, as he explains, is more interested in pushing the human mind and body, and seeing what it can do in unison with technology. Naturally the other video is a perfect demonstration of that, inspiring a sense of awe as he takes flight.