President Obama dropped quite the news at a press conference this Tuesday: "Basically," he said, "I'm here to announce that we're building Iron Man."
Of course, the president was only joking — he was really announcing the creation of high-tech manufacturing hubs — but that doesn't mean there wasn't a sliver of truth in it. The United States government has in fact been creating a suit designed to give its wearer superhuman strength and perception. Called the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS), the US Army announced work on it last May and said it was hoping to have an initial suit within a year, with an eye toward potentially having it on the field within three.
The suit truly sounds like a work of science fiction. It would give its wearer full-body bullet protection and include a built-in weapon of its own. It would also be able to monitor a wearer's vitals — including body and skin temperature, heart rate, and level of hydration — by resting against the skin. A display on the suit would show its remaining power, and potentially much more. The Army wants TALOS to use networking and an onboard computer to give its wearer an enhanced awareness of the situation and action around them, and it's easy to imagine that could be shown to them in a manner a bit like what Tony Stark sees inside his helmet.
Last we heard, the suit was coming along about on schedule. Earlier this month, a Navy admiral said that unpowered prototypes were expected to be ready by June, though he said actual deployment might not come until 2018. What the early suit will actually be like is something we'll have to wait to see, but it's clear the government is not short on ambition or ideas for the project.