They say life imitates art and science fiction can inspire science fact - and that’s what seems to be exactly what's happening with the US army at the moment.
It revealed this week that it is developing an Iron Man style suit for its soldiers that would give them super-strength and a wealth of smart technology.
Military chiefs are asking technology experts, engineers and researchers to join forces to come up with designs that will be ready to use in three years.
This news brings the intriguing prospect of Iron Man style technology leaping from the pages of comic books and off the cinema screen into the reality of the battlefield. Dubbed the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (or Talos, also in Greek mythology the name of the titan made of bronze; surely not a coincidence!), the technology would have an exoskeleton frame fitted with layers of smart technology.
The smart armour would be a step-up from the other exoskeleton designs already being tested by the army which would allow soldiers to carry heavy loads. The latest idea would include networking facilities and a wearable computer similar to that available in Google Glass; eat your (magnetic chest-plate covered) heart out, Tony Stark!
The US army are proposing that the suit be made of ‘smart material’ fitted with sensors to monitor body temperature, heart rate and hydrations levels while the exoskeleton could be fixed to arms and legs and increase strength with the use of hydraulics.
Sound familiar? If you’re a fan of Aliens, you’ll recognise those ideas in the body armour worn by the film’s marines and in the heavy lifting hydraulic suit used by Sigourney Weaver’s character Ripley.
US army science adviser Lt Col Karl Borjes said: “The requirement is a comprehensive family of systems in a combat armour suit where we bring together an exoskeleton with innovative armour, displays for power monitoring, health monitoring and integrating a weapon into that.
“It’s advanced armour. It’s communications, antennas. It’s cognitive performance. It’s sensors, miniature-type circuits. That’s all going to fit in here too.”
The army reckons that no one industry can make the Iron Man suit happen but hopes an alliance of scientists, engineers and designers can team up to do what billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark managed all by himself – and what Iron Man creator Stan Lee first dreamed up some 50 years ago.
A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is already developing liquid body armour and is expected to take a lead in developing the Iron Man suit so it’s a future technology that could be deployed very soon.
What seemed far-fetched when the original Robocop was released in 1987 will be almost be a reality by the time the remake of the film is released next year.
I’m going to suit up!
Until next timeSteve Wilkin