Watching the Iron Man movies, or any near-future science fiction movie is great fun. It’s partly because of the action and fantasy, but also, for any sci-fi geek, fun because it feels like it’s something that could happen soon. The technology behind Iron Man requires a certain suspension of disbelief, but there is already research into powered armor for both civilian and military use.
A good case in point is TALOS, or Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit. The armor has layers of fabric and non-newtonian liquid. That is, liquid that hardens when pressured, making the suit lightweight but difficult to breach. The suit monitors soldier health and can even warm the soldier if the enviroment is too cold. Here’s a report on the subject:
Naturally, this is a little outside what the modern DIY maker is capable of, but it’s proof the future is getting closer every day. In particular a huge amount of creativity has developed around the Arduino, a single board computer that is about the size of a credit card and can be programmed and extended to almost anything you might want. Including, of course, an Iron Man suit
If the Arduino didn’t create the Maker Movement, it certainly pushed it forward. The tiny computer can be had for around $30 and has a whole industry built around it to provide sensors, motors, lights, speakers and virtually anything else a hardware hacker might want. People new to the Arduino will need to learn some programming in order to tell the board how to handle the sensors and motors attached to it. And, truthfully, there will probably be some math involved, such as Ohm’s Law, when dealing with wires, power, and so forth.
Still, the effort is worth it for anyone who wants to build their own Iron Man suit with Arduino. Check out the video below:
According to the maker, the suit is controlled by 4 Arduino boards, 20 servo motors, a digital sound board for sound effects and the controls are handled by Radio Frequency ID tags mounted in the gloves. This is an ambitious project, but one that is exciting. Of course, it might be a bit much for a beginner, so if you’re interested in getting your feet wet, it might be worthwhile to start out with Make Magazine’s Weekend Projects video series. Here’s one on building a basic robot:
Once you get comfortable with putting electronics together you can graduate to the Arduino. After playing around for a bit and getting to know how the board works perhaps you too will build an Iron Man suit with Arduino (or a portable weapons system. Who knows, right?)