The U.S. military is just weeks away from getting a prototype for an Iron Man-like suit that would make soldiers stronger, give them real-time battlefield information, monitor their vital signs and even stop their bleeding.
Dubbed the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, the suit is expected to keep soldiers safer and give them an advantage on the battlefield.
The U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), an organization that oversees special ops for the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, is in charge of the TALOS program.
"A suit like this would give us additional protection in a high-threat environment," Michael Fieldson, the SOCOM civilian in charge of the TALOS project, told Computerworld. "It's all about protection... I think it would be a significant [advantage], providing protections and additional awareness of the battle space."
A SOCOM spokesman said the prototype is expected to arrive sometime in June to begin testing.
The military is slated to begin outfitting soldiers with the final version of the suit in August 2018.
The suit, designed to be lightweight, efficient and nonrestrictive, would delay the onset of fatigue, enabling soldiers to travel farther in the field, while also supporting the body and protecting it from injuries when the soldier is carrying heavy loads.
The TALOS program is a collaboration among 56 corporations, 16 government agencies, 13 universities and 10 national laboratories. Among those participating is Harvard University, which has been were working on an Iron Man-like smart suit that could improve soldiers' endurance in war zones for more than two years.
"This unique collaboration effort is the future of how we should do business," Navy Adm. William H. McRaven said in a statement. "If we do TALOS right, it will be a huge comparative advantage over our enemies and give warriors the protection they need in a very demanding environment."
U.S. soldiers are often weighed down with more than 100 pounds of gear, such as water, batteries and ammunition. That heavy load not only tires them but makes them less agile and swift-footed when they're chasing an enemy combatant, who might not be carrying anything more than a weapon.
The robotic exoskeleton is designed to support the soldier's body, delaying the onset of fatigue, while also protecting it from injuries when the soldier is carrying heavy loads.
"We are really focused on load support — the capability of transferring the load from the body to the armor," said Fieldson. "They can carry the weight for longer periods of time."
The suit also will be outfitted with a computer, Google-Glass-like visuals, communication tools and various embedded sensors. Some of the sensors will monitor the user's vital signs, body position and hydration levels, as well as body temperature. The body temperature sensor, for example, will trigger integrated heaters and coolers that will regulate the suit's temperature.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.