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Image: via Kotaku

Real Life Iron Man Suits

As the old saying goes: the suit makes the man; never will this maxim resonate so well, than when referring to bionic exoskeleton suits. They’ll not only make you the man, they’ll make you superhuman.

Yes, picture this for a second. Imagine walking at an average speed of 20 miles an hour, lifting 300lbs weights as if they weighed only 10 and being able to leap 20-30 feet in the air. Imagine having a bionic extension that shadowed your every move.

You might be thinking that this could only be achieved in comic books, or in glossy Hollywood blockbusters like Iron man or the 1959 epic Starship Troopers. Frighteningly however, robotics has come a long way thanks to the archetypal bunch of mad scientists and inventors, working away in their laboratories.

The reality of an army of indestructible soldiers wearing exoskeleton suits may come sooner than you think. No longer are exoskeleton suits merely wearable joysticks. At long last, robotics is combining our decision-making processes with the dexterity and brute force of the machines. In other words, the mind controls the metal.


Image: by Flickr user Alternate Words

However much this might sound like the plot of a bad science fiction movie, the rabbit hole goes deeper. The US Pentagon’s DARPA or Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has invested $50 million in robotic exoskeleton projects.

The question to ask, then, is will we see a bionic army, roaming the battlefields of the future or will there be some unexpected twist?

No, I’m not about to prophesize an apocalyptic battle between man and machine (even though as a die-hard sci-fi fan, I think it would be kinda cool). No, brute force, contrary to popular belief is not limited to the realms of the military, but extends to the more mundane. The potential applications of powered suits are endless. Hydraulic limbs could assist people to walk, lift heavy equipment or rubble in rescue missions and aid in construction. Anything is possible after all.

So, without further ado, let’s explore some of the most incredible exoskeletons (in order of coolness) that may be seen on the battlefields of the future or helping us in our every day lives.

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Image: via Zamazing

5. The Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX)

The director of UC Berkeley’s Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory Homayoon Kazerooni’s central aim was “to create an exoskeleton that combines a human control system with robotic muscle.” The project, funded by DARPA, was, in 2004, the most advanced exoskeletal suit. It has subsequently been overtaken by others on the list however.

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