Science fiction has a funny habit of becoming science fact after enough time has passed. The wide-eyed wonder of children sitting cross-legged in front of the TV eventually becomes inspiration for incredible feats of engineering, or the means of our own destruction. The latest example of this phenomenon is a new, powered up exoskeleton the U.S. Army is testing, per Scout.

There are tons of examples of this sort of thing in science fiction. It usually involves military personnel enhancing their combat capabilities with some manner of armor or exoskeleton. Samus Aran’s armor in Metroid , Master Chief’s armor in Halo and the goofy power gear that kills Tom Cruise 50 times in Edge of Tomorrow are a few examples. Now, Lockheed Martin has a mechanical knee-based exoskeleton in testing phases with the army.

The tech, named FORTIS, uses AI to fit different walking patterns and enable enhanced mobility and stress relief for heavy lifting on the battlefield. It uses a huge, three pound lithium ion battery to supposedly allow its wearer to carry 180 pounds up five flights of stairs, per Scout . The idea is to offload precious energy from the soldier onto the device, which would theoretically improve battlefield efficiency. Every little bit helps, so to speak.

Lockheed Martin’s engineers claim it can save the soldier nine percent of energy on essential battlefield actions using its AI-based torque technology. That may not sound like a lot to the layman, but you would probably feel better at the end of the day if you suddenly were no longer responsible for nearly one-tenth of your energy output. As long as you are willing to look a little goofy in a mechanical contraption that was designed for function and not form, anyway.

The system, which is supported by a “conformal upper structure” attached to a belt, is designed as an improvement over the older HULC mechanism, which weighed 85 pounds and restricted mobility. That seems a little counterintuitive and like it definitely needed improvement. It does not seem like there are imminent plans to make this standard battlefield apparel anytime soon, as it is merely in a testing phase at the moment.

It is worth wondering how much such a project would cost the United States military if a finalized build were to go into mass production. There are a bunch of potential improvements and add-ons Lockheed Martin could make before putting this thing out in the world. If we are going full science fiction, they should consider rocket boosters, a flight module, a laser cannon, stealth camouflage and a way for soldiers to use the bathroom on the go. Those would all probably drive up the cost and production time exponentially, but those are all hallmarks of any good space marine unit.

Of course, it is possible none of this ever comes to fruition and warfare continues to evolve in the direction of cyber attacks and unmanned drone warfare. We will all have to wait and see on this one.

From INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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