Advances in hydrogel technology have unlocked unique and valuable capabilities that are being applied to a diverse set of translational applications. Hydrogels perform functions relevant to a range of biomedical purposes-they can deliver drugs or cells, regenerate hard and soft tissues, adhere to wet tissues, prevent bleeding, provide contrast during imaging, protect tissues or organs during radiotherapy, and improve the biocompatibility of medical implants. These capabilities make hydrogels useful for many distinct and pressing diseases and medical conditions and even for less conventional areas such as environmental engineering. In this review, we cover the major capabilities of hydrogels, with a focus on the novel benefits of injectable hydrogels, and how they relate to translational applications in medicine and the environment. We pay close attention to how the development of contemporary hydrogels requires extensive interdisciplinary collaboration to accomplish highly specific and complex biological tasks that range from cancer immunotherapy to tissue engineering to vaccination. We complement our discussion of preclinical and clinical development of hydrogels with mechanical design considerations needed for scaling injectable hydrogel technologies for clinical application. We anticipate that readers will gain a more complete picture of the expansive possibilities for hydrogels to make practical and impactful differences across numerous fields and biomedical applications.