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World The 'Iron Man' body armour many of us may soon be wearing

02:51  12 april  2021
02:51  12 april  2021 Source:   bbc.com

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Imagine wearing high-tech body armour that makes you super strong and tireless. Such technology, more specifically called an exoskeleton, sounds like the preserve of the Iron Man series of superhero movies. Yet the equipment is increasingly being worn in real life around the world. And one manufacturer - California's SuitX - expects it to go mainstream. "There is no doubt in my mind that these devices will eventually be sold at hardware stores," says SuitX's founder Homayoon Kazerooni.

Iron Man was sent by the US Government to detain Thor. The God of Thunder refused to go quietly and got into it with the Iron Avenger. Captain had to intervene and stop two of his closest friends from killing each other! Best of all, this suit is wholly separate from Tony's biology - keeping the iron separated from the man . The armor that RDj wore in Avengers: Infinity War borrows many of its features from the Model Prime.

Imagine wearing high-tech body armour that makes you super strong and tireless.

a person walking down a sidewalk: Exoskeletons give the wearer more power and endurance © SuitX Exoskeletons give the wearer more power and endurance

Such technology, more specifically called an exoskeleton, sounds like the preserve of the Iron Man series of superhero movies.

Yet the equipment is increasingly being worn in real life around the world. And one manufacturer - California's SuitX - expects it to go mainstream.

"There is no doubt in my mind that these devices will eventually be sold at hardware stores," says SuitX's founder Homayoon Kazerooni. "As the prices come down you'll be able to simply buy them at Home Depot."

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The armor Ant- Man wears is definitely one of the many hero getups that could easily defeat Iron Man . For starters, no matter what he’s wearing , his armor will always have the technology that makes Ant- Man ’s powers. If you need a visual, you can see how being small was a huge help in the movies Tony may be a genius and may have built some astounding armor , but nothing can really compare to the strength of a god. Thor’s armor is a classic Marvel piece that can withstand a lot, and while we often focus on his ever-popular hammer, he has to keep the rest of his body protected somehow.

Tony soon realized this armor was just too big and shifted to the more streamlined suits. This was streamlined, allowing it to fit easily over Tony’s body and allow him to handle himself in flight and combat. This armor became quite famous as it was used for the 1994 Iron Man animated series. True, he may be a psychopath, but Norman Osborn also proved he could pull off the armor quite well.

In simple terms, an exoskeleton is an external device that supports, covers and protects its user, giving greater levels of strength and endurance.

Sometimes also referred to as "wearable robots", they can be battery-powered and computer-operated, incorporating motors and hydraulics. Or they can be more simple, passive designs that use springs and dampeners.

Exoskeletons are also designed to protect the user © SuitX Exoskeletons are also designed to protect the user

"Integrating humans and machines into one system opens up a new realm of opportunity," says Adrian Spragg, an expert on the technology at management consultancy Accenture. "Many of the early applications have been focused on military and medical applications, but in the last several years there's been an explosion of use in a range of cases."

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We ’re so used to seeing Iron Man ’s every move and command being governed by an onboard AI, that it’s hard to imagine him without it. For a while at least, it seemed like the most sensible way to get Tony Stark in and out of the Iron Man armor was to have it live inside the hollowed out bones in his own body . Known as the Extremis armor , the Model XXX suit was worn for a while before this unusual method of storage was presumably found to be too icky and he went back to keeping it in a suitcase.

Iron Man 3 gives us a few shots of Tony Stark injecting the chips into his forearm before his entertaining first attempt at calling the armor . In this movie, the armor is also meant to be more flexible so that it can wrap around him as it flies in. You can see a bit more of the behind the scenes for the sequence on the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray, as well as a bit of RDJ's martial arts practice. 9 The Civil War Suit Had Multiple Arc Reactors. One of the biggest vulnerabilities of Iron Man 's armor is its power source. The little arc reactor in the centre of its chest powers the whole thing, and without it the suit is useless.

This expansion, which has come together with rapid advances in the technology, has seen exoskeletons increasingly used by manufacturing workers. Versions for consumers are also now being developed to help people more easily do everything from DIY, to walking, climbing stairs, and other daily activities.

One report says sales are now due to rocket as a result. Global exoskeleton revenues are expected to rise from $392m (£284m) in 2020 to $6.8bn in 2030, according to a study by ABI Research.

  The 'Iron Man' body armour many of us may soon be wearing © BBC

New Tech Economy is a series exploring how technological innovation is set to shape the new emerging economic landscape.

SuitX's "suits" are now being tested by car manufacturers General Motors and Fiat. Prof Kazerooni, who is also the director of the University of California's Berkeley Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory, says that the primary benefit of the firm's exoskeletons is to prevent muscle fatigue.

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Iron Man 2020 Armor . This armor was worn by Tony Stark's nephew in an alternate reality, but the apple fell far from the tree in this case. Arno Stark made use of the suit as a mercenary, killing for profit (and sometimes pleasure). Packed with sharp edges and crazy weapons, this armor is likely too dark, evil Created by artist Steve Ditko, this armor became the foundation for most of the versions that followed, but its most characteristic trait – a “horned” face mask – has yet to appear in the Iron Man movies. Diehard fans love this armor , but their adoration isn't likely to get this suit into future movies.

Over the 59-year career of Iron Man , dozens have been seen wearing the Stark-made suits. There have been many characters from the Spider- Man universe to don the Iron Man suit, but one of the more surprising is Aunt May . Iron Man ’s armor has been stolen numerous times, but the first She doesn’t have the same experience, but she might soon be receiving mentoring from one of the most

"We've shown that muscle activity in the back, shoulder and knees drops by 50%," he says. "If muscle activities drop, that means the risk of muscle injury is less.

"This means that factory or plant managers get more productivity, their insurance costs are lower, and there are less workdays lost to injury. There's less cost and more productivity."

General Motors is also looking at a battery-powered exoskeleton glove developed by Swedish firm Bioservo.

This glove, called the Iron Hand, has sensors and motors in each finger, which automatically respond to the level of force that the wearer applies to his or her hand when lifting or gripping something. The glove therefore takes up some of the strain.

Matt Lockwood holding a gun: Bioservo's Iron Hand responds to the wearer's hand movement © Gunnar Seijbold Bioservo's Iron Hand responds to the wearer's hand movement

BioServo says it can increase the wearer's hand strength by 20% for extended periods.

Jason Cottrell, the chief executive of MyPlanet, a Canadian software firm that has conducted surveys on the use of exoskeletons, says the world is only just beginning to understand the potential for exoskeleton technology.

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a hand holding a remote control: The Iron Hand app allows the user to adjust how strongly the glove reacts to his or her hand movement © Bioservo The Iron Hand app allows the user to adjust how strongly the glove reacts to his or her hand movement

"The implications are, in a word, enormous," he says. "Labour-intensive industries like manufacturing and agriculture have always depended on a workforce that must endure a certain level of physical exhaustion and risk.

"Devices that support a person's frame while doing their job will fundamentally change how the industries run."

As an example of other possible applications, Mr Cottrell points to Delta Airlines, which announced last year that it was testing a full-body exoskeleton made by Utah-based Sarcos Robotics. The powered suit, which is being tried out by Delta freight-handling, maintenance and ground support staff, can lift weights of up to 14st (90kg) for eight hours at a time.

a person riding on the back of a motorcycle: The suits being trialled by Delta staff enable the wearer to lift weights of up to 14st © Getty Images The suits being trialled by Delta staff enable the wearer to lift weights of up to 14st

"And what about a server in a restaurant?" adds Mr Cottrell. "How could they benefit from a device that helps support the arm that carries the tray?"

The most advanced exoskeletons use artificial intelligence (AI) computer systems - software that can to a certain extent learn and adapt by itself. Prof Sandra Wachter, a senior research fellow in AI at Oxford University, says that such body suits are to be welcomed, but with some caution too.

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"In general I see this development as very positive for occupational health and safety," she says. "Machines are supposed to help us with dull, dangerous and dirty jobs.

"Robotics that protect your shoulders, your back and head, for example when you're picking up or moving things, is crucial. This is exactly one of the exciting benefits of robotics.

"Problems, however, arise if robotics also double as workplace surveillance. Are these suits tracking your movements, how fast you move, and how often you take breaks? Does a system compare this data with those of other workers to score or rank them? What happens if you move slower than others, or take breaks more often?"

At the moment, however, more widespread adoption of exoskeleton technology is still held back by a number of factors, including battery capacity, limited range of motion, and cost.

"The average cost [of a full-body exoskeleton] is around $45,000," says Accenture's Mr Spragg. "However, with economies of scale and technological maturity, prices will come down."

a man standing on a sidewalk: SuitX is now testing a knee brace aimed at walkers and hikers © SuitX SuitX is now testing a knee brace aimed at walkers and hikers

SuitX's Prof Kazerooni says that falling prices will also open up the possibility to tap into a potentially huge market - recreational exoskeletons. His firm is now working on such a device that supports the wearer's knee.

"It's not only for people who are going climbing and hiking, or younger people who want to be more adventurous, or for people who want to do more walking and climbing but not hurt their knees," he says. "It'll be for all ages. It's simply giving you a little boost."

Additional reporting by Will Smale

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