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The Military Hardware Technology

Iron Man Is Another Step Closer To a Reality 289

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'll-order-a-dozen dept.
arshadk writes with this excerpt from an article at CNN: "Inside a prosthetic shell of metal and hydraulics, Raytheon test engineer Rex Jameson is putting an XOS-2 exoskeleton through its paces. As the crowd watches, Jameson uses his robot hydraulic arm to shadowbox, break three inches of pine boards and toss around 72-pound ammunition cases like a bored contestant on the 'World's Strongest Man.' The suit moves as he moves and amplifies his strength 17-fold. ... Raytheon is seeking to develop the suits to help the US military carry supplies, and claims that one operator in an exoskeleton suit can do the work of two to three soldiers. If all goes as planned, the company hopes to see 'Iron Man' suits deployed in the field by 2015."
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Iron Man Is Another Step Closer To a Reality

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  • Skynet (Score:4, Funny)

    by Toe, The (545098) on Friday November 12, 2010 @10:35AM (#34206350)

    Simple math:

    Ironman - man = Terminator

    I dont think tinfoil is going to protect my skull against this thing.

  • "Raytheon is seeking to develop the suits to help the US military carry supplies"

    Cue: Power Armour in 3...2...1.
    • Re:Intended Use? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Culture20 (968837) on Friday November 12, 2010 @10:42AM (#34206418)

      "Raytheon is seeking to develop the suits to help the US military carry supplies" Cue: Power Armour in 3...2...1.

      With what power? Supply tossing makes sense since the suit can be tied to a supply truck via power cable.

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        I'm going to assume that it won't just plug into the cigarette lighter, mind you. Although a man can dream.

    • Re:Intended Use? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Linsaran (728833) on Friday November 12, 2010 @10:47AM (#34206460) Homepage
      This is not exactly new, they've been working on this for a while now. The only thing stopping them from putting armor plating on it and turning it into power armor is the battery life of the suit. Even with the most expensive batteries we can manufacture, there's a maximum opperational time of about 30 minutes on the XOS-2 when disconnected from an external power source. Needing to be plugged in to operate sort of limits their military applications to grunt work and MAYBE defensive deployments. Still if someone can work out the power issues, functional and deployable power armor is really only a manufacturing run away.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RsG (809189)

        Either fuel cells or a portable generator might make more sense than a battery. Both have a much higher energy density per mass and energy density per volume, plus they are much easier to refuel than a battery is to recharge.

        Technically, the fuel cells needn't be hydrogen powered, since you can make a fuel cell that runs on hydrocarbons (which are easier to store and transport). A generator adds more exhaust and moving parts, but is at least proven technology. Either could work.

        And for military applicati

        • by JWSmythe (446288)

          I wouldn't be that surprised to see propane fueled generator used. I didn't see an indication of how much power is needed, but capacitors/batteries for surge capacity (lifting something heavy), and a small generator to keep nominal power supplied would seem easy enough.

          One of the things I've been doing lately is repairing small generators (4-6kw). A friend of mine has a tiny 1kw gas generator. Converting over to propane isn't all that hard. The same conversion from gasoline

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by RsG (809189)

            In point of fact, exploding fuel isn't exactly a huge risk.

            This is one of those areas where Hollywood is to blame for the popular perception. Every time a car goes off a cliff, every time a tanker truck catches a stray bullet, every time hydrogen is even mentioned, what follows is an impressive pyrotechnics display.

            Doesn't work that way in real life. Mythbusters, who never avoid a myth involving kaboomery, have tested most of the fuel explosion myths and found them wanting. Fuel (gasoline, propane, hydro

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              The problem is how to use the diesel fuel. I think an ethanol fuel cell makes more sense, it's a more volatile fuel than diesel but it's actually less toxic on the skin than typical diesel fuels, which are in turn much better than gasoline, which competes with methanol for causing nervous system damage. Diesel ICEs are heavy, though; that pretty much leaves you with a turbine, which causes a whole new set of problems. It's probably the best option even so, however. In a military context where you're willing

      • Beta-Voltaics...

        Sulfur 35 is a radioactive isotope that gives off Beta Partiles, ie. Electrons. You could build a canister sized device using Sulfur-35 that could constantly recharcge the suits batteries long enough to keep it running indefinately.

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        That didn't stop them from deploying EVAs to defend Tokyo 3 against the angels.

        In regards to batteries the developer had this to say: ""If they get breached, they aren't gentle in the way they explode,"

    • by lennier1 (264730)

      Export it to Japan and it's only a matter of weeks until the Knight Sabers become reality. :D

      • The japanese have their own. It's called HAL [wikipedia.org]. Made by a company called Cyberdyne. Yep, we're doomed.
    • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:10AM (#34206682) Journal

      No. I think you have it wrong... You seem to be mixing two thoughts

      "Raytheon is seeking to develop the suits to help the US military carry supplies"

      Cue: Power Armor in 3...2...1.

      and

      "Raytheon is seeking to develop the suits to help the UK military carry supplies"

      Cue: Power Armour in 3...2...1.

  • by Tekfactory (937086) on Friday November 12, 2010 @10:38AM (#34206374) Homepage

    This story refers to the Second Generation of the Raytheon Exoskeleton released at the time of the Iron Man 2 DVD back in September.

    We've seen footage of the guy tossing ammo boxes and shadow boxing, but those were all the first generation suit, unless you saw this story already on Engadget, Scientific American, etc.

    • Sure, but Stark putting out another version of the suit is hardly newsworthy. He treats those things like candy. Sometimes he gets TWO new suits in the same comic.
  • Power (Score:4, Insightful)

    by falldeaf (968657) <.falldeaf. .at. .gmail.com.> on Friday November 12, 2010 @10:39AM (#34206386) Homepage
    I think they're going to need a suitable power source before this is useful in the field. When are nanotubes going to bring that huge battery increase I keep hearing about?!
    • Either that or the mobile power unit we see in the actual Ironman movies...Good point.

      • Re:Beat me to it :) (Score:4, Informative)

        by RsG (809189) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:28AM (#34206840)

        That was implied to be a fusion reactor. I was actually impressed in the second movie where they made oblique references to neutron embrittlement, which is much more sophisticated physics than comic book movies usually get. Mind you, the rest of the movie's physics were still awful, but I'll cut it some slack given the source material and the desire to be faithful to it.

        Presuming it was a fusion reactor, you can pretty much forget about seeing them that small anything soon. Fusion power plants scale up better than they scale down, partly as a result of the square-cube law, and partly as a result of components being hard to miniaturize. We don't even have building sized fusion plants that can produce more energy than it takes to achieve and maintain the reaction in the first place. We'll probably have working fusion power in this century, assuming we keep at the R&D and don't blast ourselves back to the stone age in the meantime, but I doubt we'll have it miniaturized to Iron Man levels anytime in the next couple hundred years.

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      When are nanotubes going to bring that huge battery increase I keep hearing about?!

      In about 10 years!

  • Tagged (Score:4, Funny)

    by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Friday November 12, 2010 @10:41AM (#34206404) Journal
    +samusaran
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Toze (1668155)

      "Here, what's this command labeled Morph Ball?"
      "DON'T TOUCH THA-"
      *crunch crunch crunch*

      You know, I think I figured out why the Morph Ball is an upgrade.

  • by Tekfactory (937086) on Friday November 12, 2010 @10:41AM (#34206410) Homepage

    "Inside a prosthetic shell of metal and hydraulics, Raytheon test engineer Rex Jameson is putting an XOS-2 exoskeleton through its paces."

    How many of his kids is J. Jonah going to send after Spidey?

  • by Dan667 (564390) on Friday November 12, 2010 @10:44AM (#34206428)
    The only thing I thought the whole time I watched this is US defense spending is way to over bloated to have this kind of useless spending.
    • The goal, theoretically, would be to save money. You could eliminate tens of thousands of military positions, saving countless billions of dollars. Of course, you'd end up with a bunch of unemployed workers with no useful training dumped on the streets.

      The down side would be how much each of these cost, and what kinds of maintenance would be required. Saving 1-2 man-years per suit that might require 1/4-1/2 a man year of [more highly trained/expensive] labor per year to keep it running, plus the power costs

    • by Entropius (188861)

      No kidding.

      And this isn't even about defense. Build as many of these things as you like, I guarantee I could put that money to better use in building an army. RPG rounds are a whole lot cheaper than Space Marines, or whatever they're trying to build.

      Raytheon is all about getting contracts to do bullshit, independent of any actual real military need.

      • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:12AM (#34206688)
        There's an old saying among military officers: 'amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics.' Go ahead and use the money to buy more guns. Find out what happens when they run out of ammo. If the US armed forces can resupply two or three times faster than another military because of advances made in logistics (like this one), then that's a formidable real advantage.

        I'm glad the Pentagon has a broader perspective than yours. Modern armies, scratch that, ALL armies can only function on the back of efficient logistical support. The more efficient and effective that support, the more advantage that army has, even in the face of superior numbers or a harsh environment.
      • There's a lot more to an effective army than just having big guns.

        Think of this suit as basically a smaller version of a forklift truck. That's not to say that either of these things can't be used as weapons, but they're hardly practical for that purpose. They are, however, good at moving heavy stuff around.

        I dislike armies and the results of using armies in general, but military research often results in cool things for the rest of us to use at least.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by ScentCone (795499)
      The only thing I thought the whole time I watched this is US defense spending is way to over bloated to have this kind of useless spending.

      Which means you have absolutely no idea what it costs to recruit, train, field, and retain modern military personnel. If you can deploy three or four fewer people to an airstrip someplace, and unload a bunch of emergency medical supplies in a fraction of the time, you're reducing costs, not adding to them. Of course you know that, and you're just looking for some juni
      • by CraftyJack (1031736) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:21AM (#34206772)

        If you can deploy three or four fewer people to an airstrip someplace, and unload a bunch of emergency medical supplies in a fraction of the time, you're reducing costs, not adding to them.

        Color me skeptical. If you really are deploying fewer people, great. But I suspect that something like this has a serious logistics tail. If it takes three people to operate and support the thing, that's no good. If you have to wait two days to get it working again when it breaks down, you're back to square one - without the number of people you need to accomplish the task at hand.

        • by ScentCone (795499) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:27AM (#34206838)
          Remember: time is money, too. If this is more nimble than a standard forklift, you might have that cargo aircraft sitting on the runway for a few minutes less, guzzling less fuel, and holding up fewer other incoming flights. There are a lot of indirect costs avoided by speeding up logistics operations. If it takes an operator and two support guys to do work in half the time, compared to a fork lift driver and one support guy, it might still be cheaper.

          If there are things you can do with something like this which you simply cannot do with a forklift (which seems very likely - especially in rough terrain and lots of emergency response type scenearios), then you might avoid the entire cost of (and personnel involved in) enhancing a remote airstrip.
        • by Americano (920576)

          Right, just like motor vehicles have proven completely useless to a modern military, because they require the recruiting and training of mechanical specialists who can maintain them, and the necessity of keeping spare parts and supplies for repairing them on hand.

          It may take three people to operate and support the thing - but those three people will be operating and supporting several dozen suits, with each suit allowing your division to function with one or two fewer cargo handlers. And if the suit also r

    • I think this is more along the lines of what we should be doing. Anything that makes for less troops is a good thing.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      Research and development looks useless until it bears fruit. If the outcome were known, it wouldn't be "research".

      Things a tethered powered exoskeleton could be used for (ignore teh drama and consider it a piece of equipment like a backhoe or forklift):

      Vehicle maintenance:
      Wheeled combat vehicles often have massive tires, while tracked vehicles have heavy steel track. An exo at the shop would be able to replace or supplement lots of specialised equipment and work faster. Being able to "exo-manually" manipula

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sir_Lewk (967686)

      Of all the things the military spends trillions of dollars on, you complain about science and engineering?

      You need to get your priorities straightened out.

  • Until there's a meaningful way to store the energy in a format light enough to be carried by the suit / bearer, it's nothing more than a technology demo --- a cool one, but not useful in the field yet.

    William

    • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Friday November 12, 2010 @10:50AM (#34206482)
      Considering that the proposed use right now is for faster cargo handling, the power could be provided by the truck hauling the cargo. The suits don't have a battlefield purpose yet, so tethering isn't much an issue when you consider that everything these are likely to be used for is within feet of a big vehicle of some kind.
    • by Sabalon (1684)

      Depends on the field. How much combat is hand-to-hand anymore? This could have ruled in the 12th century. But unless it is a full body armor suit, it won't help as you are heading into a town. And even then, you don't need the extra strength, just the protection.

      Where I see this could be used is recovery missions, where say you have a collapsed building. Bring this in and get to the victims fast. (Of course, you have to worry about doing more harm just tossing rubble around).

      I see this more as inspire

  • Stuff like this seems more like the power armor from Starship Troopers than Iron-Man. Negative feedback, increased strength, assisted running, etc. It's all there. Just strap a Y-rack on the back and some other weapons, and there you go. Now, if only we can find a way to add the jump jets, that would be awesome. I guess it's just a lot more pop-culturey to call them Iron Man suits, unfortunately.
  • by VShael (62735) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:04AM (#34206628) Journal

    Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Barrinmw (1791848)
      Buy one suit, military keeps it repaired for 20 years, 20 years of 2 people in the military > 1 suit.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You have no clue how much it costs to employ and move actual people.

      When you add up the costs of recruiting, training, and paying (both in $ and in things like medical care and other benefits) a soldier, if you can spend a few hundred thousand on something that removes a couple soldiers, you have saved money.

      Moreover, you can put this in a box and leave it around at nearly zero cost between missions; your real live person has to be paid all the time.

      Moreover, transporting one person and one box of mech-suit

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by blair1q (305137)

        True.

        And, when a soldier breaks, you get another soldier. When this thing breaks, you start filling out forms to request repair or replacement, and you get 1-2 more soldiers.

        Frankly, if this thing was worth a damn, it would be all over the civilian logistics industry by now.

        But it's not. So putting a soldier in it is just a distraction, and a way to get funding for something that's not as economical as some people think.

        • by Americano (920576) on Friday November 12, 2010 @02:19PM (#34209040)

          Frankly, if this thing was worth a damn, it would be all over the civilian logistics industry by now.

          Is this based on the premise that military research is never taking place on the cutting edge of technology, and never generates anything that turns out to have useful civilian applications? Because I could swear that's what you're suggesting.

          And if you are, please explain the Internet, the Hummer, and the host of emergency trauma treatment techniques, prosthetics, and other medical developments that have been developed as a result of defense spending?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      depending on the job, then yeah, it's worht the cost.

      A jet does the work for 10,000 mean at the cost of 150,000. well worth it.

  • Get back to me when you can actually run an Iron Man Triathalon in one of these. Until then, please refer to it as a powered exoskeleton, not an "Iron Man suit"!
  • So the Sabbath reunion is underway?

    Kewl.

  • Pine boards... (Score:3, Informative)

    by junglebeast (1497399) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:15AM (#34206718)

    Are extremely easy to break, which is why we use them in tae kwon do. Little kids have to break them for testing. Adults would often punch or kick through 3 or 4 boards like this. Not impressed.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      ah yes, tae kwon do. The training of young peple to break boards in the least practical way as possible.

      just say "tae kwon don't"

    • by powerlord (28156)

      Not just TKD, most Martial Arts start with pine.

      Kids can break 1" (with a little training, and its great motivation), and adults can break 3-4 with training, but the ability for a person to break 4 or so with NO training, IS impressive.

      Heck, when I was practicing regularly I was going through 5 of them (with hands or feet), and its still impressive for an untrained person to have that ability.

    • by jandrese (485)
      You have little kids that can punch through 3" thick boards? Are you sure you're not from Krypton or something?
  • > the company hopes to see 'Iron Man' suits deployed in the field by 2015.

    Yes! THAT'S how you win 'the heart and minds' of the conquered:

    Prisoner: "What did you do with my donkey?"

    Army guy: "Oh...Iron Joe here threw it out of the way while we were storming your house. But don't worry...it should come down to earth any minute now..."

  • had to beat a man to death with my K&R book and then warm my hands overt his body before it could cool.

    Can we stop with the 'war' this and 'war' that?

    • by MsGeek (162936) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:44AM (#34207036) Homepage Journal

      The Japanese have been developing this for decades. They knew a demographic bomb was going to go off, and they knew that nurses were going to need some help in dealing with the elderly. So there are now production power suits geared towards assisting nurses in lifting patients.

      Also there is a very strong possibility this technology can be applied to assistive systems for paraplegics and quadriplegics. Imagine someone who was "sentenced to the Chair" for the rest of their lives being able to walk again. I mean, neither application is particularly sexy, not like super-soldiers and being able to do the last battle in Aliens for real, but I would say that this would be a boon for humanity far greater than any military application.

  • The video in the linked story is really poor. What's the one thing you want to see in a video about a guy in an exoskeleton? You want to see him doing stuff. The video has a couple of quick shots of him punching and doing push-ups, and that's it. Poor.

  • Safety? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by radarsat1 (786772) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:48AM (#34207084) Homepage

    Firstly, it's too bad the military-industrial climate in the US means that the first "application" of such technology is towards "the soldier of the future". I see such a "strength-enhancing" technology as more useful in contexts like warehouse management, replacing forklifts, rather than soldiering, where I'd think that "small, quick and light" would be virtues. As mentioned in other comments, "helping old people" is how they think of this kind of thing in Japan. (Though it makes me laugh to think about a grandfather type wearing such a gigantic exoskeleton to do the groceries..)

    Anyways, the real point of my post was to think about safety issues. Every time I see exoskeleton technology, it makes me think about the fact that acceleration-based positive feedback control has a tendency to "explode" if you're not very careful. I'd be afraid of putting such a suit on for fear of it ripping my arm off if something malfunctioned. What kind of safety restrictions are in place on this thing?

    By positive feedback, I mean: In a typical control situation, you'd have sensors that can tell you, 'hey you're pulling really hard on the arm right now and there is a lot of resistance, so stop.' However in this case, I'd imagine the logic is more like 'hey you're pulling really hard on the arm right now, and there is a lot of resistance, meaning the guy needs more help, so pull harder!'

  • Drones (Score:3, Funny)

    by Yvan256 (722131) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:50AM (#34207114) Homepage Journal

    Ivan Vanko: Drone better.
    Justin Hammer: Drone better? What, why drone better? Ivan, I got an order for suits, not drones!

  • Breaking 3" of pine boards is not all that impressive to me. I know a guy who can break 4 boards (no spacers) with a kick. I'm sure there are people who can do that without the exoskeleton. It's still pretty impressive to me from an engineering standpoint, and I'm not really questioning the claim that it increases the strength 17x, I just don't think it was a very good demo. For breaking stuff, speed is very important, and this thing didn't look like it made him faster. Maybe they should have had him c

  • [...] the company hopes to see 'Iron Man' suits deployed in the field by 2015.

    So, it also works for farmers then?

  • So, in the span of my lifetime we have gone from the most complex robotics being a RC radio controlled car to a fully functional exoskeleton.

    Further, the most complicated AI has gone from basically none to systems that can recognize handwriting, gestures, speech and thoughts.

    Lastly, the pace has been accelerating. The advance from very rudimentary robotics to exoskeleton has happened, for the most part, in the last 5-7 years. The same could be said of the AI advances. I would say that if you're not

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