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The Real Iron Man: How the Army Is Building Robotic Exoskeletons

August 4, 2014

Be all that you can be…if what you want to be is a robot.

Iron Man SuitOver four (and soon to be five) movies, Robert Downey, Jr. has played Iron Man on the big screen, battling everything from evil space aliens to Mickey Rourke. The Iron Man and Avengers films are among the most popular ever, and the real world has taken notice. Just like the officials in the movies who keep pestering Tony Stark/Iron Man for his blueprints, real-life military bigwigs want to get their hands on an Iron Man suit.

The U.S. military has contracted companies like Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics to build a Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (or TALOS), a militarized robotic exoskeleton, not unlike Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit. The Department of Defense is hoping for something that will “provide bullet protection, monitor vital, and give its wearer superhuman strength and perception.”

But that’s an incredibly tall order. Those features can be worked out easily enough, but neither the military, nor Lockheed, nor GD can figure out a practical way to power the super suit. They’re now reportedly seeking help from, ironically enough, Legacy Effects, the Hollywood special effects house that designed the suit featured in the Iron Man movies. Three early prototypes have already been shown to officials at the Pentagon. Despite the hurdles still ahead of them, the military is hoping to have a fully functional suit by 2018.

As others have noted, this scheme is almost exactly the same one Tony Stark dealt with in Iron Man 2. In the film, he takes on a military contractor eager to sell super suits to the military. The contractor’s knock-offs eventually run amok, forcing Stark to destroy them. Nobody working on the real suits seems to be worried about this happening though. It’s unlikely, but maybe they didn’t actually see Iron Man 2.

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