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TALOS: DARPA’s next generation of military exo-suit

DARPA spends a good portion of its time devising ways to replace US soldiers, make them obsolete and unnecessary in the face of robotic or remote-controlled alternatives. Still, even DARPA can’t (yet) replace the human element entirely, and when the US does call on soldiers to do battle, they need to be ready.

The Special Operations Command (SOCOM) unit of the US military has put out a call for proposals to help build its next generation of super-soldier. The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (named so as to allow the acronym TALOS) is the next generation in exo-skeletons and power-assisted garments and will, if successful, put US soldiers in a league all their own.

A mockup of DARPA's Warrior Web project.

A mockup of DARPA’s Warrior Web project.

For several years DARPA has been showing off improvements to their Warrior Web project, which sought to increase both the stamina and carrying capacity of its soldiers without impeding speed of maneuverability in the least. It managed this with a series of load-bearing struts and gait-assisting springs that kept soldiers light on their feet even when weighted down. Now that idea is getting a new and more ambitious face in the TALOS project, with a few notable additions.

Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter might be a good visualization of the project’s goals with respect to technology, as DARPA wants to put situational awareness at the top of its list of priorities. The suit will help soldiers navigate and keep track of each other, let soldiers monitor their own health, and stay in contact with their commanders. The aforementioned Warrior Web tech will certainly be integrated, but between new pieces of tech and the batteries they will require, along with the project’s extreme focus on ballistic armor, most of the extra carrying capacity may already be spoken for.

Science fiction certainly has a backlog of predictions about technologically advanced soldiers.

TALOS is a seriously forward-thinking initiative. At MIT, researchers hope to contribute to the suit with their ideas for liquid body-armor, magnetorheological fluids that become solid and impenetrable in milliseconds when subjected to a magnetic field or electric current.

Some have gone so far as to call TALOS the military’s attempt to create its own version of Iron Man, but that’s going too far — despite the rather outrageous (unofficial) video below, TALOS will not be an invulnerability suit but rather a discrete tactical advantage. Quickly and accurately chasing enemies through streets or mountaintops while carrying hundreds of pounds? Possible. Bursting through stronghold door, though, will likely have to wait for ATLAS.

Now read: The ‘near-human’ Atlas robot has better balance than you do

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