“He was turned to steel, In the great magnetic field.”
-Black Sabbath, “Iron Man”
Comic book heroes and superhuman subjects have filled childhood and adult dreams for the better part of a century now. The fantasy of saving the world, being nearly indestructible, and getting the girl just to break her heart because you’re a dark and misunderstood loaner. Maybe it’s that, or just a slight undiagnosed case of schizophrenia that leads to your imagined alter-ego. Whatever, superheroes are cool. I know that, so do I, and me too!
A more realistic comic book hero comes in the form of well-off individuals. For example: Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark. Their super power is money; they’re just normal (not really) guys who could afford some serious gadgets. It works though, and it’s awesome. You know who else has money? The United States Government (not really), and Lockheed Martin has taken a page out of Tony Stark and Marvel’s fantastic book of imagination and entertaining vigilantism.
Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Navy are making exoskeleton technology come to life as they have entered into a contract to test the gear for industrial use. The suit, Fortis, increases an operator’s strength and endurance, and allows them to hold objects up to 36 pounds effortlessly with a mechanical arm as well as reduce muscle fatigue by 300%, increasing productivity up to 27 times the normal rate. Unfortunately, the suit doesn’t cover the operator’s entire body, nor does it enable the individual to fly (yet, we don’t know). The Navy as explained that their main use of the exoskeleton is for maintenance purposes, but Lockheed Martin has confirmed that they intend to develop more systems for military applications. They have been investing in exoskeleton research and development for more than five years; however, no financial terms have been released regarding their recent government toy (Williams, 2014).
If we remember the 70’s (I don’t, I wasn’t born yet), then we remember the character, Steve Austin. He, to most people, is the 6 Million Dollar Man. Though it was a television program, it was obvious that progress from comic books to bionic implants was well on its way. From astronaut to secret agent with super-human speed, sight, and strength, Lee Majors portrayed what the government is nearly making a reality. “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster (Richard Anderson).” From a financial standpoint, what would the cost of the 6 Million Dollar Man be now due to inflation? Would it be considered obsolete technology like a VHS or is he more like a classic car such as a ‘67 Fastback?
This type of stuff is supposed to be fiction, created by the imaginers and fanatical dreamers, but now it’s a reality. The future is now, and it came fast. It makes people wonder if genetic enhancement is on the horizon, or if testing has already begun regarding Captain America or Hulk transformations. Maybe they are secretly testing serums on professional athletes and that’s why they get in trouble with performance enhancers all the time? Who else would they test? The homeless? That’s too much of a risk. They would just use their super human strength to rob liquor stores.
Williams, A. (2014). Retrieved from http://news.investors.com/business/081814-713660-navy-testing-lockheed-iron-man-exoskeleton.htm on August 22 2014.