Is Tony Stark secretly on the U.S. military's payroll? Because the proposed Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) certainly looks like something out of Iron Man.
The man in charge of the country's special forces, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Chief Adm. William McRaven, wants the the Defense Department to develop a powered exoskeleton that does the following (via Foreign Policy):
- Provide "superhuman" strength
- Protect against bullets
- Monitor and react to vital signs
- Display personalized "battlefield intelligence" and provide night vision
- Integrate a weapon into its design
- Stop bleeding with "wound stasis" technology that sprays foam into injuries
Yes, all of that equipment sounds extremely heavy, which is why the military is counting on liquid body armor to make the whole thing workable. Currently being developed by MIT, it's a gel that can be pasted onto a surface with particles that transform "from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied."
In other words, once a bullet hits, the particles lock together to form instant body armor. That might sound like science fiction, but you can see the same principle at work by mixing iron filings into vegetable oil and holding a magnet nearby.
TALOS isn't the only technology out there ready to transform soldiers into battlefield superheroes. Lockheed Martin is working on its own exoskeleton — the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) — to help soldiers carry heavy loads with powered titanium legs.
And VICE just produced a short film on "smart rifles," which use tracking software and custom bullets to allow even novices to hit a moving target from 1,000 yards away. (Unlike the previously mentioned technology, these rifles are available to anyone for the price of $25,000).
So when can soldiers expect to see a flightless Iron Man fighting next to them? SOCOM says it wants to test the first-generation version of TALOS within a year and a more advanced one by 2016, so it might not be that far off.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Fall movie guide: All the films you should see in September
- Scottish independence is another financial crisis waiting to happen
- 11 scientific studies that will restore your faith in humanity
- 10 things you need to know today: September 1, 2014
- Why the West should let Russia have eastern Ukraine
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- These real-life Rosie the Riveters changed the face of labor
- The 10 best networking tips for people who hate networking
- 5 deliciously creative oats recipes
Subscribe to the Week