The US military isn't keeping its interest in building an Iron Man suit a secret, and on Friday, The Wall Street Journal published new details on the work being done to create one. The government's plans for the suit, known as TALOS, are straight out of science fiction: it wants the suit to have a weapon, provide bullet protection, monitor vitals, and give its wearer superhuman strength and perception. To make that, it's called on the private sector to help, with big names like Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Raytheon reportedly getting involved.
Special effects, insects, and sumo wrestlers
Smaller companies have stepped in too, however, including some from unusual sectors and some taking unusual approaches. Most notably, special effects maker Legacy Effects — which actually created the Iron Man suit for the movies — has become involved, helping to design and 3D print prototypes, according to the Journal. Legacy itself is helping on behalf of Ekso Bionics, an exoskeleton creator, and admits that what it's doing here is a big change. "When you're doing something for a movie it is all make-believe," Legacy founder Lindsay MacGowan tells the Journal. "Whereas, for the military, that's really not going to be the case."
Creating an exoskeleton that can handle everything the military has in mind for the suit has become one of the biggest hurdles, and it's there that the Journal reports that companies are branching out. One group has begun studying sumo wrestlers to determine how they manage to move around with such agility in spite of their weight. Researchers have also been studying insect's exoskeletons to see how they maintain their strength.
The Journal reports that suit developers expect TALOS to weigh as much as 400 pounds, adding to the problem. The Pentagon itself believes that a whole 365 pounds of that might need to be batteries simply to power all of the systems that the military wants the suit to have. For now, there remains no good way to power it — an area that Tony Stark has quite a lead on. $10 million has reportedly been spent on the project so far, with no cap to its budget. The military has previously said that it would like to deploy the suit as soon as 2018.