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Raytheon Exoskeleton Brings "Iron Man" to Life 199

An anonymous reader writes "Raytheon is bringing 'Iron Man' to life, according to EETimes. 'The movie opens in theaters worldwide today, but the real "iron man" has already been under construction at Raytheon Company (Salt Lake City, Utah) since 2000. Raytheon's Exoskeleton project is the brainchild of project leader Stephen Jacobsen and is being funded by the U.S. Army. The project, according to the company, permits soldiers to don an Exoskeleton suit that amplifies their strength — enabling them to lift 200-pound payloads without tiring.'"
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Raytheon Exoskeleton Brings "Iron Man" to Life

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  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday May 02, 2008 @05:33PM (#23280466)

    In addition to amplifying strength and endurance, Raytheon also claims its Exoskeleton can increase a soldier's agility--enabling feats similar to those demonstrated--courtesy CGI (computer-generated imagery)--by the "Iron Man" in the film. Raytheon's Sarcos team, which has been developing the Exoskeleton since 2000, has demonstrated its wearer performing feats of strength as well as agility, including kicking a soccer ball, working out on a punching bag, climbing up stairs and navigating rough terrain.
    Yeah, I really hope that's what is in the movie - Iron Man playing soccer; Iron Man hitting a punching bag; and Iron Man climbing some stairs.
    • by B3ryllium ( 571199 ) on Friday May 02, 2008 @05:43PM (#23280566) Homepage
      "navigating rough terrain" is clearly a coded phrase meaning "flying around being badass and blowing shit up"
    • That EETimes.com story missed one ability of the Raytheon suit:

      waste millions of government cheese making pointless boondoggle equipment that has the same basic functionality as a forklift...Wave of the FUTURE!

      Hell, the Iron Man suit can't even compete with that!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timeOday ( 582209 )
        I'm not so sure. Think about special forces chasing Taliban around the rugged mountains of Afghanistan with their 130 lb backpacks. That is not something a forklift can help them do.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Valid point, but our guys(and ladies!) in Iraq have a hard enough time getting normal equipment. What makes you think a soldier's life is worth what these exoskeletons are going to cost? I don't see that as a reasonable application of the technology.

          On a side note, I'd hate to be wearing one of those things and carrying around 400 pounds when it breaks down :)
        • by 1u3hr ( 530656 )
          Think about special forces chasing Taliban around the rugged mountains of Afghanistan with their 130 lb backpacks. That is not something a forklift can help them do.

          And it's not something the Raytheon suit will ever be able to do either.

      • You also can't modify a forklift to work underwater (this suit can) or in space (this suit can) or in collapsed mineshafts (this suit can) or in any number of restrictive or exotic locations.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by dctoastman ( 995251 )
          Yes, because in a gravity deficient environment, we need a robot that can lift 200lbs. comfortably.
          • by turgid ( 580780 )

            Yes, because in a gravity deficient environment, we need a robot that can lift 200lbs. comfortably.

            Ever heard of inertia and momentum?

      • by J05H ( 5625 )
        How about infantry that can carry 20mm Bushmasters as sidearms? Soldiers wearing as much armor as a Bradley, logistics teams that don't get injured/tired as easily and medics that can easily pick up and run off with injured troops.

        My personal favorite, once this gear is on the surplus market: powered armor rickshaw! Weld a sitting capsule to the back of the suit and run your clients through traffic. Hooahh!
  • that it can only be used by alcoholics

    if it is used by anyone else, the suit is not an iron man, it is a war machine
  • Raytheon (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zoomshorts ( 137587 ) on Friday May 02, 2008 @05:42PM (#23280550)
    is but ONE of many who develop such stuff.
    The exo-skeleton concept has been around for
    MANY years, just grab an old copy of Popular
    Science from the 1960's. The subject was
    "Man Amplifiers". Nothing to see here.
    • Re:Raytheon (Score:5, Funny)

      by spun ( 1352 ) <.loverevolutionary. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Friday May 02, 2008 @05:49PM (#23280604) Journal

      is but ONE of many who develop such stuff.
      The exo-skeleton concept has been around for
      MANY years, just grab an old copy of Popular
      Science from the 1960's. The subject was
      "Man Amplifiers". Nothing to see here.
      Yeah, old news. I see that same subject of "Man Amplifiers" in my email every day.
    • Come on give me this one. I work for Raytheon. Let me enjoy it. /I used to work for EDS. It's nice to work for a company that doesn't get blasted every other day on /.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kandenshi ( 832555 )

      enabling them to lift 200-pound payloads without tiring.
      Well, the person wearing the suit might not get tired quickly, but what about the suit itself? It has a power source, TFA seemed light about details regarding how long a portable power source for this would last holding up 200 lbs...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Gewalt ( 1200451 )
        The power source is the plug in the wall. NOBODY has made an exoskeleton with its own power yet. Battery tech sucks, and will continue to suck for the foreseeable future.
    • The exo-skeleton concept has been around for MANY years, just grab an old copy of Popular Science from the 1960's.
      The concept alone has no value without a working implementation. If somebody has a better one than Raytheon's, I agree it should have been featured instead.
    • "just grab an old copy of Popular Science from the 1960's."

      Try `Starship Troopers' by Heinlein, 1959, for prior art and the penultimate description of an armored exoskeleton.
  • Alien (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bryansix ( 761547 ) on Friday May 02, 2008 @05:48PM (#23280598) Homepage
    That's from Alien. Now if the suit allowed the soldier to fly then it'd be from Iron Man.
    • by argent ( 18001 )
      Yeh, that was my first thought, this is a version of the exoskeleton forklift from Alien. Which is more useful, really, than the Iron Man suit, it'd be far more versatile than a forklift in a warehouse or machine shop.
    • by Nursie ( 632944 )
      Yup, did you see the line under the pictures?

      "The "Iron Man" exoskeleton being worked on by Robert Downey Jr. in the movie (left) is eerily similar to the real Exoskeleton (right) being developed at Raytheon."

      They're on crack! It looks nothing like Iron Man.
    • by antdude ( 79039 )
      Chairboy [slashdot.org] already made one [hallert.net] (/. story [slashdot.org]). [grin]
  • by nilbog ( 732352 ) on Friday May 02, 2008 @06:00PM (#23280700) Homepage Journal
    Yea, those look exactly the same.

    It's like saying we already have jetpacks then pointing at a trampoline.
  • by BagOBones ( 574735 ) on Friday May 02, 2008 @06:09PM (#23280748)
    http://gadgets.boingboing.net/2008/04/17/rent-a-hal-robot-sui.html [boingboing.net]

    It may not have the same MAX strength gain but:

    a) doesn't still require a tether
    b) has a much lower profile
    c) You can already RENT IT.
    • c) You can already RENT IT.
      That article says:

      Better yet, Cyberdyne is saying that they will have 40--500 suits available for rent by the end of the year... for the scant price of $1,000 per month.
      If slashdot has taught you anything, it should be that companies looking for venture capital are ALWAYS claiming that their product will be available "real soon now."
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Friday May 02, 2008 @06:58PM (#23281080) Homepage
    Exoskeletons were described by H. G. Wells in 1898, in The War of the Worlds:

    And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it? A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder. A flash, and it came out vividly, heeling over one way with two feet in the air, to vanish and reappear almost instantly as it seemed, with the next flash, a hundred yards nearer.

    Of course, these exoskeletons were piloted by Martians, not humans.

    Exoskeletons also appeared in Robert Heinlein's 1959 (or was it 1958 in the magazine serial?) Starship Troopers:

    Our suits give us better eyes, better ears, stronger backs (to carry heavier weapons and more ammo), better legs, more intelligence (in the military meaning), more firepower, greater endurance, less vulnerability. The inside of the suit is a mass of pressure receptors, hundreds of them. You push with the heel of your hand; the suit feels it, amplifies it, pushes with you to take the pressure off the receptors that gave the order to push.


  • by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Friday May 02, 2008 @06:59PM (#23281086)
    The primary problem with an exoskeleton, at least as it pertains to front line combat use, is and, as far as I know, remains the massive heat signature generated by the internal combustion engine that is required to pressurize the hydraulic components (a battery powered compressor would probably be impractical and not any less heat generating). Anyone wearing this exoskeleton would show up like the sun on infrared making them vulnerable to the types of heat seeking missiles or automated guns that would normally target vehicles and other substantial heat sources. If you are going to have the heat problem then why not just use a vehicle which can mount the heavy weapon on the chassis, carry some exhaust cooling shrouds, and provide more armor than the exoskeleton? The exoskeleton doesn't make much sense, at least in my opinion, for front line operations or at least not it its present form. It doesn't offer enough advantages over a vehicle to make it worthwhile to accept the same or similar set of drawbacks (i.e. generating large quantities of waste heat).
    • Not yet (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Friday May 02, 2008 @08:14PM (#23281488) Homepage Journal
      The automobile had no military value when it was first invented either. It was slow, cumbersome and weak. Now look at military transports and tanks today. As you said, "at least not in its present form". You've gotta start somewhere.
    • This isn't designed for combat (front line) use - but rather for the guys behind the front lines humping ammo, changing engines, and dozens of other heavy physical tasks.
    • Western militaries have not been fighting opponents well equipped with heat seeking AT missiles for a long time. Even against some insurgent with an RPG, powered armour is going to take less casualties then ordinary troopers on foot or in a humvee, because it will have all over armour proof against shrapnel. A direct hit on a PA will kill the soldier, a direct hit on a humvee can kill a whole squad.

      PA will be an absolute boon for taking out insurgents in a dig in position, when heavy fire power cannot be us
    • by putaro ( 235078 )
      "Amateurs study tactics, armchair generals study strategy, but professionals study logistics"

      The military isn't looking at these for front line combat, at least not initially. They're looking at these for logistical support. Modern militaries depend on lots of supplies that needs to be moved around, loaded on trucks, etc. Often supplies need to be shifted around in places where something like a forklift won't be very effective (think loading a tank full of shells off a truck in a gully someplace). That'
    • The exoskeleton doesn't make much sense, at least in my opinion, for front line operations or at least not it its present form.

      You said it all right there. Look at the capabilities of the exoskeleton; it allows the user to lift massive amounts of weight with very little fatigue. My uniformed belief is that the front line guy don't particularly need those features. However, the back-end and supply line uses are killer: imagine the efficiency gains on an aircraft carrier when missiles and the like are attached to the plane by a single crewman who uses his exo-hands to place the cargo with great precision.

  • by WUPA ( 902038 )
    Anyone remember there were the 30+ story mechs along with the mini body-suit mechs? The pic in the article looks just like the beginning of those mini ones. So by that reasoning around the turn of the next millennium we'll have the huge ones, but any dedicated gamer saw this coming well over a decade ago. Can't wait for trial by combat!
    • by Barny ( 103770 )
      And any dedicated table top gamer will tell you the huge 10-100 ton ones were out a while before the clan tech Elemental suits were on the scene :)

      But, I am not asking for much, a raven would do me, something to just cruise around with, enough ECMs that you can't do anything to it and a couple of small weapons.
    • by p0tat03 ( 985078 )

      And anyone who's played the original board game will quickly realize how bad of an idea this would be in real life. Ever shot out a mech's legs, have it fall over, and roll 2d6 to try and stand?

      Meanwhile the tracked vehicle that cost less resources to deploy is still happily blasting away.

      Bipeds are only useful for negotiating tough terrain... Huge mechs are pretty pointless. Their firepower can be carried by a tank, without any of their tendencies to fall over.

      A quadruped maybe...

    • by Renraku ( 518261 )
      Unidentified broadcaster..

      This frequency is reserved for House Liao military use only

      Do not attempt to transmit on it again.
  • Am I the only one who was reminded of Gray Fox/"Cyborg Ninja" from Metal Gear Solid?
  • When I was in the army, I could lift 110 kilograms and I wasn't exactly a jock. So I fail to see the utility of this contraption, unless American GIs are really, really puny...
  • Although I'm guessing Raytheon must have purchased it somehow.

    Trivia: the same company that developed the exoskeleton also made the animatronic dinosaurs for the jursassic park ride @ Universal Studios.

    Trivia: Sarcos worked very closely with the Center for Engineering Design @ the University of Utah. IMHO a very interesting collaboration between the academic and commercial worlds.

    I did some research work there during my bioengineering days and one of my friends worked on the project...
  • overselling it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Friday May 02, 2008 @11:35PM (#23282278)
    Just giving us the Aliens powerloader would be impressive. Robocop would be even more impressive. But the Iron Man suit strays far into unobtanium territory. Antimatter powerplant, antigrav flight, there ain't no way we're getting something like that for another 50 years. That'd be like rolling out the first Sopwith Camel and saying we've made good progress towards the F-22.
    • Well, compared to a guy strapping wooden planks to his arms and flapping, a Sopwith Camel is AMAZING progress towards an F-22.
  • by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @09:44AM (#23284140) Homepage Journal

    The "Iron Man" exoskeleton being worked on by Robert Downey Jr. in the movie (left) is eerily similar to the real Exoskeleton (right) being developed at Raytheon.
    Can somebody give a pair of glasses to Johnson?

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