In the last few decades, imaginative science fiction devices have become common place in society. The Star Trek communicators have emerged as iPhones and other smart devices, Drones have video phones can be found almost anywhere, and the conveyor walkways from The Jetsons can be found in many large airports. Why stop with devices that provide mere convenience? Enter the United States Military’s desire to build a real life Iron Man costume with the assistance of some of the best special effects artists in the industry.
Lindsey MacGowan, co-founder of Legacy Effects, was ecstatic to help, but also apprehensive at the thought of being responsible for an actual life:
“It’s daunting, because somebody’s life eventually is in your hands.”
Undoubtedly, the Iron Man suit is expected to be a bit better in quality compared to the cardboard suit that a Taiwanese student recently created.
The suit, code named TALOS (Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit), is going to be the result of a cooperative of various special effects and research organizations. There are multiple prototypes created, as of June, that are currently under review. Project manager, Brian Dowling stated:
“We have projects now that are going to range from exoskeletons, to micro-climate cooling vests, to spines that support the helmet. The human body can’t look too different in its form and function, but the technology you’ll see will look drastically different than a soldier today.”
According to The Week, $410 million has been spent thus far on the project, considerably lower than what Tony Stark might have spent. However, the cost is being watched closely to ensure tax payer dollars are not wasted on the project.
Military News has reported concern over the cost:
“‘To do it right, they need about a billion dollars,’ said an experienced industry official who works for a large defense firm. He asked that his name not be used for this story. ‘Twenty million dollars a year in an R&D budget— you couldn’t even develop a pencil on that.’
“This may sound overly cynical, but it’s fairly accurate in terms of the U.S. Army’s track record for developing smart-soldier technology. The service is now equipping combat units with a secure, smartphone device— known as Nett Warrior—that allows a leader to track subordinates’ locations in relation to his own position via icons on a digital map. The unit leaders can view satellite imagery and even send text messages.
“The technology has seen combat and given leaders a precise view of their tactical environment, empowering units to operate more decisively than ever before.
“But the program’s success did not come easily. Land Warrior, the first generation of this computerized command-and-control ensemble, was plagued by failure. From its launch in 1996, the Army spent $500 million on three major contract awards before the system’s reliability problems were solved in 2006.”
Lindsey MacGowan is empathetic about the cost worries and attempted to reassure everyone that this project will not be rushed, thus saving money on costly errors and oversights due to time constraints:
“This one won’t be flying anytime soon. And it won’t be red or gold, but it’ll be something that is in the history books.”
[Photo Courtesy: i09]