Exoskeletons In Our Future?

Iron Man 2 poster - Marvel Studios
Fantastic Four 169 - Marvel Comics
I've been fascinated by the concept of exoskeletons since I was a kid. The first time I ever read the term was in a Fantastic Four comic book back in 1976. In issue 169, Ben Grimm reverts to his normal appearance and Reed Richards makes an artificial "Thing" suit for him. I'm not sure when the term "exoskeleton" was first used in a comic book, but that has to be one of the earliest.

Avatar Exoskeleton
Anyway, exoskeletons have been a recurring feature of comics and movies for decades. Of course the plots of Iron Man and Iron Man 2 revolve around the technology, and District 9 (2009) featured an "Exo-Suit", but there were earlier examples. In Aliens (1980), James Cameron used an exoskeleton (referred to as a "powerloader" in the film) in the climactic fight between Ripley and the queen alien. Cameron again prominently featured the technology in Avatar (2010).  

In preparation for Iron Man 2's release on May 2, Marvel Studios released a clip showing a futuristic exoskeleton from the fictitious AccuTech Corporation. The studio also created a website for Accutech which gives even more details on what they call the "Haztech" suit.

Besides being a smart promotional tie-in for the movie, I think the clip gives us a glimpse into the future. Suits that can mechanically enhance human performance are a reality, but the technology is still years away from being the advanced type seen in the Iron Man video. However, I've included another video that shows a real, working exoskeleton being developed for the U.S. military. After watching that clip, it's not hard to see where Marvel got ideas for their superpowered suit .



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