Warehouse workers may someday be able to get through a shift without breaking a sweat. Or at least they will if a real-life "Iron Man" suit under development for the U.S. Army becomes commercially available.
The "Exoskeleton" robotic suit developed by Raytheon subsidiary Sarcos Inc. senses and enhances the wearer's movements, allowing him or her to accomplish more with less physical effort. The suit, which Sarcos demonstrated for the press when the hit movie "Iron Man" was released in May, makes it possible for the wearer to lift a 200-pound load several hundred times without tiring, according to Raytheon. It can be powered by batteries, generators, vehicles, or small, onboard gas engines.
The Army expects to field test the suit next year in applications like unloading helicopters and carrying heavy gear. Sarcos Inc. lead designer Dr. Stephen Jacobsen told reporters at the demonstration that commercial applications might eventually include manual labor in factories, helping firefighters carry heavy gear up stairs, and possibly assisting disabled people. For now, though, the cost of the prototype super suits means they're unlikely to show up on the loading dock anytime soon.
To see more photos or a video of the Exoskeleton in action, go here.