Vimal Govin Manikandan just gave Tony Stark a run for his money.
Manikandan, an Indian engineering student, has created an Iron Man suit that costs just $750 to build and is capable of lifting roughly 330 pounds. It might not be as pretty as the many suits worn by Robert Downey Jr. in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it actually works in the real world, which is nice.
Manikandan says the suit was inspired by action movies like Avatar — which also features mechs — and designed for use by the military. Not for bionic super-soldiers, mind, but for making it easier for individual soldiers to lift very heavy objects.
The suit has its drawbacks. It weighs 220 pounds, which makes it hard to walk or run while someone’s wearing it, and its battery-powered systems probably don’t last particularly long. It also isn’t clear if the 330 pound lifting capacity includes the weight of its wearer or if it’s 330 pounds more than the suit-and-wearer combo.
Still, it’s a working example of an exoskeleton built on the cheap. Most devices of this sort cost much more to produce and aren’t quite ready for prime-time. But that hasn’t stopped others from building their own exo-suits.
MIT researchers created a “humanoid platform” called Hermes that boasts human-like reflexes to be deployed in disaster areas. Here’s a video showing a prototype of Hermes, which could one day become a full-on mech:
Even the US military has been trying to get in on the action with the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit. Sure, TALOS blurs the line between real project and propaganda, but it’s still a novel idea that could help soldiers. Here’s a video of TALOS posted by — appropriately enough — “AmericaFuckYeah”:
Manikandan doesn’t have the backing of the world’s leading tech school or military-industrial complex. He has a small team working on a robot made to pick things up and put them down. That isn’t quite as trying as the situation that led to the creation of the first Iron Man suit, but it’s still pretty goddamn impressive.Photos via Getty Images / Kevin Winter