back to article Trials of 'Iron Man' military exoskeleton due in June

The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) project to create an Iron-Man-like exoskeleton has advanced to the point at which trials of a prototype are now expected in June. TALOS emerged last September, then took a big stride forward in October when it was revealed the US thinks it is such a good idea it was decided to …

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  1. Alexander Giochalas

    Another case of filling the initials with words?

    I assume that they started backwards: they wanted the exoskeleton to be named Talos, (in greek mythology, Hyphestus- Vulcan in latin- the god of fire & metallurgy made it from copper and it is assumed to be the first robot ever, even if it is mythological), so any real meaning or relevance is optional...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another case of filling the initials with words?

      Erm, I thought that was how all the best acronyms were made. I once had a gaffer who was an absolute genius at this kind of thing. Among other inspirations, he kept a book about Greek mythology on his desk.

      1. Phil W

        Re: Another case of filling the initials with words?

        Backronyms are always best.

        PING, the only acceptable form of groping in most workplaces.

    2. Shagbag

      Another case of bullshit from the military?

      I thought North Korea was bad, but this takes the biscuit.

      "Hey, we've got this exo-thingy ready to trial, we're just looking for a military grade extension lead that'll plug in to the nearest working wall socket we find on the battlefield. Ideally, it'll come with adapters for US, UK and European sockets."

      1. Wzrd1

        Re: Another case of bullshit from the military?

        "Hey, we've got this exo-thingy ready to trial, we're just looking for a military grade extension lead that'll plug in to the nearest working wall socket we find on the battlefield. Ideally, it'll come with adapters for US, UK and European sockets."

        Rather than something like, "Hey, we have this whiz-bang suit that requires X amount of energy to drive it. What do you experts out there have to fit the bill?"

        Something that has been done since we first developed technology and have only increased doing.

        Or do you honestly think that NASA designed and built all of those rockets and modules? That radar magically got better on government research alone?

        Hell, if he gives me a suit to keep, I'll come up with the energy source gratis.

        Better yet, after initial delivery, I'll take a second suit to up-armor and add integrated weapons systems for it. They're welcome to purchase the improvements back and keep them.

        But, I'll keep the first suit.

        This arthritis and assorted other injuries acquired over decades of military service rather sucks.

        I'll have to check out their energy and logistical requirements.

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: Another case of bullshit from the military?

          >>Rather than something like, "Hey, we have this whiz-bang suit that requires X amount of energy to drive it. What do you experts out there have to fit the bill?"

          Yeah, but there's a big difference between "we haven't worked this bit out yet, but the general principles are sound" and "this thing will need a battery the size of a bear but I'm sure a way round that will appear by the time we need it".

          That's one of the things I liked about the Iron Man movie. It revolved around the fact that the main character had this super-powerful reactor as its energy source and that's what made everything else viable. There are very few problems you can't solve by having sources of massive, cheap power.

          (Other than heat dissipation).

          1. rciafardone

            Re: Another case of bullshit from the military?

            That last line got you +5 on your nerd cred from me.

            People always seam to forget about "heat"... always

        2. Mr Paranoid

          Re: Another case of bullshit from the military?

          Run it on mars bars

          http://cleantechnica.com/2014/01/22/sugar-battery-unmatched-energy-density-created/

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Angel

    Hey, TALOS is a fine acro for this!!

    Somebody at el Reg didn't get their classical education!!

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Hey, TALOS is a fine acro for this!!

      Nor did they watch the telly at Xmas when they were kids:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77AkKu0rnzU

  3. wowfood

    Timeline of events

    Today they promise us exoskeleton armour to rival that of Iron Man. A month or so before teh deadline, they'll tell us that instead they have fully functioning unmanned droids, and then all we'll get is some robots that can salute.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Timeline of events

      I predict that when they do the first public test, the Green Goblin will fly in and blow everything to pieces.

    2. x3mxs
      Mushroom

      Re: Timeline of events

      Incidentally, Mickey Rourke's Russian character used the word "салют" (pron. "salut") that in Russian means "fireworks" :)

  4. Mike Brown

    power source will be a amassive problem for these

    There is a reason Tony Stark uses a fictional ARC reactor; the power needs for a suit of power armour is massive. Without a very effecient, and small battery these suits are going to very limited in range: the length of the power cord. I wonder what sort of plug they will use? Or will the just carry an adapter for all the oil rich countries?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: power source will be a amassive problem for these

      My thoughts exactley. It isnt a problem with the "suit", just like it isnt a problem with mobile phones. The real problem is powering the things.

      There has been a lot of talk about new battery technology, better electrolytes, better chemistry, better power density but we still dont see any of that tech filtering down.

      (Purely) electric cars can go 100 miles max. Most smart phones will do a couple of days, less if you use all its features. laptops (glorified calculators dont count) cant do more than a couple of hours.

      They would do a lot better solving the energy issue and then build the tech around that. Not the other way round.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: power source will be a amassive problem for these

        Well exactly. That's why the project took 'a big stride forward' as soon as it was under military control.

        Because the new bosses don't understand design bottlenecks, and instead directed the boffins to start putting guns on whatever they had already.

    2. DropBear

      Re: power source will be a amassive problem for these

      Well, since fossil fuels still seem to be the highest energy density fuels, should we prepare to witness the glorious dawn of dieselpunk mechas...?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: power source will be a amassive problem for these

      I would have thought ultra compact, high efficiency generators would be the way to go. They would run off pre-existing fuel supplies, they would recharge almost instantly. Plus a variety of industries will likely be going that way anyway, especially the electric car business with the v.small tank + on-board generator (personally I think a better idea than a prius like hybrid), military dev always goes better if there is a parallel civilian requirement.

      Plus you fit them in the exos feet and lower legs to aid in stability.

      1. Daedalus Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: power source will be a amassive problem for these

        >>I would have thought ultra compact, high efficiency generators would be the way to go

        Just one problem: they don't exist. Batteries are "efficient" but don't give much energy per kilogram compared to liquid fuels, and the better they get the more they are like incendiary bombs. Internal combustion engines are at most 50% efficient so for each useful kilowatt you get a kilowatt of heat that you have to deal with. Try wearing an electric bar heater on your back all the time. Fuel cells have the potential to be more efficient than engines, but they run hot just to work. Same problem.

        I'm always amazed that Iron Man is thought to be a realistic example of technology. There isn't a single thing about that suit that is vaguely plausible, unless you count being mildly bulletproof. Thor is the most believable Avenger - he's a god. 'Nuff said.

    4. JulianB

      Re: Or will they just carry an adapter for all the oil rich countries?

      No just a standard US-style 110v plug, and then be surprised that not everyone in the world uses the same standard.

    5. Shugyosha
      Trollface

      Re: power source will be a amassive problem for these

      That's a simple one. I've read plenty of stories about companies developing clothing that uses walking motion to charge iPhones and the like. All they need to do is incorporate the same kind of technology and add some kind of dynamo so that the movement of the arms and legs generates power and then feed this back in to the suit's power source. Voila, endless power.

    6. The Indomitable Gall

      First practical market:

      Mike Brown:

      "Without a very effecient, and small battery these suits are going to very limited in range: the length of the power cord."

      This is why the only market I can think of for the initial units is for steadicam operators. A full steadicam rig typically weighs around 50kg, and I've seen steadicam operators who don't weigh much more than that to start with. A lot of the time the cameras will be on an umbilical anyway rather than battery power, so the power lead won't be an extra burden if it's bound into the same "snake" as the camera power and signal cables.

      By increasing the weight capacity of the operator, they'll be able to use heavier cameras still, and I'm sure you all know what that means.... Yep, that's right: seasickness-inducing stereoscopic steadicam 3D!!!!

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: First practical market:

        Another possible use is in the care industry. In Japan there have been exo-skeletons designed to help manage bedbound patients. One small nurse in such a suit to be able to lift a patient in and out of bed, etc. I imagine there are a number of confined environments where additional strength would be useful.

    7. Martin Budden Bronze badge
      Devil

      Re: power source will be a amassive problem for these

      It needs a generator which runs on the blood of the slain.

  5. Mephistro
    Coat

    TALOS a bad name???

    I see you haven't played Skyrim or any other of the 'Elder Scrolls' games.

    Mine is the one with the crossbow and the poisoned bolts.

    1. Combat Wombat
      Trollface

      Re: TALOS a bad name???

      The marketing guy be dressed in robes and screaming about how much the TALOS suit will love you !

  6. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Go

    Proceed....

    .....(probably at a slow walking pace to start with).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder what gullible fool they're going to use as a test pilot... I saw the video... it wasn't pretty.

  8. flearider

    it's very simple .. The human body generates more bio- electricity than a 120-volt battery and over 25,000 B.T.U.'s of body heat. We are, as an energy source, easily renewable and completely recyclable

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That much!

      When you think about it, it could be worth farming humans for their energy. You could put them in little pods which supply all their needs, hook them up to some kind of AI environment, so they wouldn't know they were being farmed, and harvest their energy to power your robot civilisation...

    2. Vociferous

      > The human body generates more bio- electricity than a 120-volt battery and over 25,000 B.T.U.'s of body heat

      The human body is very energy-efficient, that's why we can operate for weeks without taking in any energy at all, and why it's so hard to lose weight. To function you need about 2200 kilocalories per day, which translates to 110 watts. The screen you're reading this on may well draw more power than that, never mind the hive of computers and electrical motors needed to actuate an armored exoskeleton.

      More importantly, the whole point of this suit is to overcome the weight-lifting llimitations of the human body, to allow the wearer to carry more gear and heavier armor than he could normally. Clearly you're not going to do that with the energy from your body.

      (yeah, that bit never made sense in the Matrix either)

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re:"we can operate for weeks without taking in any energy at all"

        I would say "go on and try to operate for a week without swallowing anything", but that would likely open me to a charge of attempted manslaughter.

        Look it up or ask your doctor. You spend three days without even a drop of water and you are already on the verge of death. There are people who have gone on hunger strike for weeks (and I salute their resolve), but all of them drank water - sometimes sugared - in order to survive. And if you think that those people were in proper "operating" form after two weeks, well I think you need to go back to your doctor. Most of them were permanently confined to their beds after 15 days because too weak to get up.

        We are not efficient energy users. We heat up as soon as we exercise, which means that we are wasting energy. If we were truly very energy-efficient, we would constantly be at room temperature. Take a look at humans in IR photos. You can clearly see the areas where skin is exposed - it's the whitest part of the picture.

        We are not efficient in using energy, we are however quite efficient in recovering it from what we eat and in storing it.

        1. phil dude
          Linux

          Re: we can operate for weeks without taking in any energy at all"

          and the figure of "2200 Kcals/day" is not very useful. In fact dig into the medical literature and you will find many of these numbers bandied around are either averages (with no variance provided), or represent a specific age group. If you work in an office it might only be 1500.

          I recommend googling for an article on America's NPR regarding the Amish community and their measured daily work and diet.

          A bit of an eye opener about exactly what sitting around all day does to you....

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14707772 ahh there's the article.

          Oh and don't get me started on the recent Horizon Fat/Sugar travesty...

          P.

        2. Vociferous

          Re: we can operate for weeks without taking in any energy at all"

          > You spend three days without even a drop of water and you are already on the verge of death

          Yes. I'm talking energy here; you get none from water.

          > We are not efficient energy users.

          Oh I would say we are. Your daily energetic expenditure is about equal to the energy content of 1 cup of petrol, and that's for heating + all your activity. I think that's pretty impressive.

          We're not superconducting, but most of the generated heat isn't, like in a car engine, waste -- we actively heat ourselves, as we need to maintain a specific temperature for optimal function of our proteins and enzymes (you may have felt how muscles become unresponsive in severe cold). The heating is energetically expensive, but enables us to function at a level and under conditions e.g. reptiles can not.

  9. Test Man

    Man and machine, POWEREXTREME!

    (Centurions)

    More like.

  10. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    TALOS?

    Will probably be renamed by the grunts and semi-officially known as TacAss...

  11. Mike Ozanne

    Surely the proper name for powered combat armour is the Marauder suit, as issued to the Mobile Infantry....

  12. Dave Bell

    Sergeant: You removed that bronze nail in its foot, didn't you, sir.

  13. madmalc

    Visualisation of TALOS

    Find this handy statue of a TALOS (In Cambridge) here

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TalosCambridge.jpg

    TALOS was also a rather nifty US Navy anti aircraft missile with optional nuclear warhead back in the 50s/60s

  14. Zmodem

    they can run it with my perpetual generator for a powersource

    http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2013/12/10/willetts_man_mars_30_years/

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      "make a magnetic pulse drive and you can leave earth with no need for air combustion, or fuel with some lame 1kw nuclear reactor you need to dump all the waste and heat from into some rubbish plasma drive"

      Why haven't you gone yet, then?

      On a slightly more normal level: Leave the meat out then there may be enough space for some kind of power source and sit the operators next to the drone pilots who are providing air cover.

      1. Zmodem

        spend £2 million on perpetual generators using wind turbine dynamo`s, and they would be better then a fusion reactor, and just some PCB and copper coil and nothing hard to fix in 10 years when the motor starts to loose some RPM

        making a cheap and nasty generator out of a £200 charger turbine, will give you 300 watts, if your using a decent RC car motor with 2kg of torque, the dynamo`s are 7 inches big and easy to fit into a suit

        proper modern direct drive turbines have nothing todo with dynamo`s from the 1980s and car altinators and all other rubbish

        1. Zmodem

          to start a small generator up, it would take a AA battery to give the RC car motor a spin, which turns the direct drive turbine, which a tiny amount of generated power loops back to the motor at light speed on the smallest route possible after passing through the invertor at the bottom of the dynamo/turbine and it becomes perpetual for longer then needed length of time without having all the specifications of motor and dynamo and correct spin ratios and torque needed

  15. Aitor 1

    power

    Fuel cell maybe? still, I find it dangerous to have methanol inside your armor.. if the idea is to protect you...

    You won't be able to hide very well.. as there will be steam getting out of the armor...still, almost no sound y you use servos/fibers and don't use hydraulics.

  16. Tchou
    Paris Hilton

    Why??

    Why insert a human body in the armour in the first place (70 - 100kg) ?

    Make it a remote controlled droid on 6 wheels, an armored casing for storing motor/fuel/ammo, one or two guns on a turret, and a few cameras.

    Lower price. Available tech.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why??

      Continued employment of flesh-based kill-bots until their programmed end-of-life whilst adapting logistics infrastructure to cope with mecha-kill-bot requirements.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why??

      "Make it a remote controlled droid on 6 wheels, an armored casing for storing motor/fuel/ammo, one or two guns on a turret, and a few cameras"

      Wheels aren't so good for the sort of sandy and rocky terrain we seem to fight hobby wars over. I agree the human is unnecessary in the suit, but then why go with either wheeled or humanoid format? Nature's answer to this sort of terrain is the mountain goat. The form factor looks as though it could be enlarged, carry sensors, obviously missile pods where the horns ought to be, and a gun firing out of the arse.

      Low price, available tech, and more amusing (unless you're an insurgent being chewed up by the arse mounted gatling).

    3. Vociferous

      Re: Why??

      > Why insert a human body in the armour in the first place (70 - 100kg) ?

      Drones have significant downsides, the worst of which is the >1 second reaction time. That's not a big problem for a slow-moving high-altitude drone, but in a close combat situation it's disastrous.

      That said, this suit is just a transition technology, just like the drones. When the technology is mature, in 10-20 years time, both the slow-moving high-altitude aircraft and the grunt kicking down the door on the ground will be fully autonomous robots.

  17. Michael Habel Silver badge

    No Star Trek references yet.... For shame!!

    Talos IV was the inhabited M-class fourth planet of the Talosian system located in the Talos star group. The planet was the homeworld of the Talosians, a telepathic humanoid species, as well as of the Talosian singing plant. The planet had an atmosphere of oxygen-nitrogen and a gravity that was 0.9 of Earth standard. Talos IV was located three astronomical units from the binary stars Talos A and Talos B, Talos IV had a highly inclined orbit that brought it close to the orbit of Talos V.

    After thousands of years had passed since war had devastated the planet, Talos IV was beginning to support life again in the mid-23rd century. By then, the planet's deep underground had been inhabited by the Talosians, who had evolved as an old and weakened species with enormous mental powers. In 2254, the planet was visited by the Federation starship USS Enterprise – under the command of Captain Christopher Pike – after receiving a distress call faked by the Talosians supposedly from the SS Columbia, that had crash-landed there in 2236. However, the only survivor of this crash was Vina, a female Human.

    Afterward, the Federation imposed General Order 7 on Talos IV. This order prevented anyone from approaching or making contact with the planet, under penalty of death.

    In 2267, Talos IV was revisited by the Enterprise while commandeered by Spock, in order to deliver Captain Pike there. Though Pike had been crippled by delta-particle radiation poisoning, he was able to live a normal life on the planet, together with Vina

    1. Vociferous

      Re: No Star Trek references yet.... For shame!!

      And, as we now know thanks to the Star Trek: Into Darkness movie, none of the above ever happened, and Captain Pike is instead killed on Earth by Sherlock Holmes, a decade before he would have gone to Talos.

      IF you accept the "reboot" stinkers as canon. I don't, and never will.

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: No Star Trek references yet.... For shame!!

        Well hold on a second there did we watch the same Pictures? My understanding is that the J.J. Abrams Universe isn't at all canon, and is some sort of other Mirror Mirror Parallel Universe where Spock, (Leonard Nimoy), can somehow converse with his Counterpart (Zachary Quinto), in the aforementioned Universe.

        So I'm not sure how it would retcon anything from the TOS & Movies. Other then the fact that Bolly.. Um I mean Hollywood can't seem to develop anything bordering original anymore. Those cheeky bastards having to go and, re-image a classic like the Wrath of Kahn, and then call it "Into Darkness".

        The sad part is this is gonna be the same cat that gonna give us StarWars VII in a few Years time?! Lord help us!

        1. Vociferous

          Re: No Star Trek references yet.... For shame!!

          > the J.J. Abrams Universe isn't at all canon, and is some sort of other Mirror Mirror Parallel Universe

          No, they are explicitly stated to be canon. Abrams & co screwed the pooch out of laziness -- but they claim they did not, because timelines. In the Trek universe, there have only been one timeline, and everything has to be set right or you get cascading effects in the future. Abrams & co instead view timelines as they are depicted in the Marvel universe, as equal to alternate realities which all are real and all have happened.

          So, in the view of the Abrams crew, the movies do not change the canon, AND they are canon.

          No, it doesn't make sense, and it doesn't in the Marvel universe either. It's effectively just the lazy script writers way out of having to care about canon.

        2. DropBear
          Go

          Re: No Star Trek references yet.... For shame!!

          I'm just going to say this quietly since some of you may well be aware - but to the others: have you seen the brand new second episode of "Star Trek Continues" yet...? It's absolutely 0% JJ, 100% ToS.

          1. Michael Habel Silver badge

            Re: No Star Trek references yet.... For shame!!

            I'm just going to say this quietly since some of you may well be aware - but to the others: have you seen the brand new second episode of "Star Trek Continues" yet...? It's absolutely 0% JJ, 100% ToS.

            No its the first I've heard about a new Trek. So...

            Who's airing it?

            Is it over here yet?

            Perhaps most importantly where is it in this "Time-line", and do we have to drudge though yet another Enterpise-esq audition of the X-Factor?. My Zarquon what were they smoking back then?

          2. Vociferous

            Re: No Star Trek references yet.... For shame!!

            > It's absolutely 0% JJ, 100% ToS

            I went to have a look, and you are not kidding -- it is ToS reborn, and far more Star Trek than the "reboots". Good production values too. It's silly of me when people have produced something this good, but I wish they had used a different ship with different crew in the ToS universe as setting, because the small differences between this and ToS are jarring because it is so close to the original: Uhura turns around... and it isn't Uhura.

        3. Duffy Moon

          Re: No Star Trek references yet.... For shame!!

          Star Wars has already been ruined though.

          1. Vociferous

            Re: No Star Trek references yet.... For shame!!

            > Star Wars has already been ruined though.

            Good god yes. As awful as the Star Trek prequels are, pissing all over everything which made Star Trek, Star Trek, they're still shining pinnacles of art compared to Ep. I-III.

            I'm actually hopeful about Disney's upcoming Star Wars movie: literally the only way is up for the franchise.

  18. Vociferous

    The power source IS the problem!

    The rest of the exoskeleton is various shades of trivial, the real challenge is and has always been to find a practical source of power for it.

    1. Sporkinum

      Re: The power source IS the problem!

      Why do you think the scary Boston Dynamics robots use a noisy, smokey, two stroke engine for power?

  19. willi0000000
    Meh

    they probably want it to look like people for the scare factor. what's scarier than a human? get the warm body out of it, you don't need it. probably better off with a hexapod. run it in hex until you meet trouble then go centaur, four on the ground for stability and two to shoot with, or just hug dirt and try to think of a way out.

    biggest problem i see is the "ideal tank" problem. what ratio of speed to armor to gun do you want? the usual, pick two! you get a tank, a scout or a suicider.

    without a lightweight, high density power supply this thing is going nowhere though. even with almost unlimited power there's still the problem of IR detection. just can't see it happening in the next few years.

    1. Swarthy

      "The usual, pick two! you get a tank, a scout or a suicider."

      Or in more common terms: You have your Tank, your Scout, and your Glass Cannon.

  20. Frankee Llonnygog

    I predict this will turn out to be a load of

    Combat-Operational Clothing-Kit

  21. Mike Ozanne

    " a scout or a suicider."

    Same thing aren't they?

    "Send Armoured Car to location A"

    "Yes Sir"

    "Has the Armoured Car returned?"

    "No Sir"

    "Enemy holds location A"

  22. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Already done

    Besides loads of SF stories describing exoskelatal suits, I can recall science shows from a decade or more ago that showed this sort of tech. It works but it takes a really long extension cord to do anything useful with it. I also seem to recall that it took a bit more go juice than one could get from a standard 13A plug.

    Somebody else rightly pointed out that battery technology with the energy density to pull off this kind of tech is going to be much like a bomb.

  23. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Misapplication of tech

    The US would be better served spending techdev money on transportation instead of sci-fi gadgets for committing war.

    1. Vociferous

      Re: Misapplication of tech

      Yeah, but where's the fun in that?

  24. Cybershaman

    How about flexible battery technology? Promising? Would having a battery embedded under the armor be detrimental if damaged? Or would it slowly lose juice as it was damaged? hmmmm....

    http://www.tgdaily.com/general-sciences-features/86846-sodium-ion-battery-tech-gets-new-twist-with-flexible-molybdenum-disu

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