In the “Iron Man” trilogy, billionaire inventor Tony Stark uses a gesture-controlled hologram to draft new designs of the titular armor, sending virtual parts flying around his lab with the flick of a wrist.
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk—who is often compared to Stark by the tech press—is apparently creating the real-life equivalent of that fictional hologram system. “We figured out how to design rocket parts just w hand movements through the air (seriously),” he Tweeted August 23. “Now need a high frame rate holograph generator.”
In a follow-up Tweet, he added: “Will post video next week of designing a rocket part with hand gestures & then immediately printing it in titanium.”
At this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas, Musk sat down for a keynote talk with former Wired editor Chris Anderson. He discussed SpaceX, which he founded in 2002 with the goal of commercializing space exploration; the company now makes cargo runs into orbit for NASA.
During his SXSW talk, Musk unveiled video of a recent SpaceX test in which a ten-story rocket took off from its launch pad, hovered several hundred feet in the air, and landed again in the same spot. Reusable rockets, he said, will prove essential if humanity wants to extend its dominion past Earth and become a “multitenant species.”
Musk earned his first fortune from financial-services firm X.com, which eventually merged with Confinity, the company behind PayPal. When eBay bought PayPal in 2002 for $1.5 billion, it made him rich enough to pursue initiatives such as electric cars and space flight. But getting humans to Mars—one of his ultimate goals—is more than a matter of money. Musk needs popular support, which is one of the reasons why he probably indulges the Tony Stark comparisons: all positive buzz is welcome when you’re trying to accomplish big things.
But Musk has no plans to actually make an Iron Man-inspired suit of armor. “I am not going to make an IM suit,” he wrote on Twitter, “however design by hand-manipulated hologram is actually useful.”