So the Army wants an Iron Man suit. Awesome, but I'd call IBM (NYSE:IBM) before getting too far down the path.
The reports we're seeing don't describe Iron Man so much as a cool battlesuit outfitted with a few gizmos. Called T.A.L.O.S., which stands for Tactical Assault Light Operations Suit, the idea is to give soldiers "superhuman strength" and "greater ballistic protection." Here's a closer look at the concept:
Again, awesome. But more like Captain America, Marvel's original Super Soldier, than Iron Man.
To be fair, Cap, both in the comics and Walt Disney's movie adaptations, becomes "super" not by donning an exoskeleton but from downing a secret formula. Our real-world Army commanders want something a bit more tangible.
"The requirement is a comprehensive family of systems in a combat armor suit where we bring together an exoskeleton with innovative armor, displays for power monitoring, health monitoring, and integrating a weapon into that," said Lt. Col. Karl Borges, an Army science advisor.
Sounds to me like a job for IBM, which not only operates some of the world's most sophisticated tech, labs but also earns $1 billion annually in royalties from patented tech breakthroughs. Big Blue also has a long history of working with nanotech, and just this week IBM joined with Semtech to demonstrate wireless sensors capable of transmitting data 9 miles. Precisely the sort of remote connectivity you'd want in a tech-boosted warfighter.
I've owned shares of IBM for years because I believe the company is the most likely source of breakthrough innovation in difficult tech, such as water desalination, solar to electric conversion, and sub-atomic microprocessor design.
T.A.L.O.S. is a Big Idea unto its own, and judging by the video, shares at least some of the properties of the Mark I Iron Man suit as depicted in the 2008 film. (Remember this scene?) Yet there's so much else missing from the suit that calling it Iron Man armor just doesn't work. Here are three things that make Iron Man invincible, and which you won't see in T.A.L.O.S.
1. Repulsors. You know those blasts that shoot out of Iron Man's gloves? They're called repulsors. Not lasers, per se, but bursts of concussive energy that Iron Man can harness in a variety of ways. Knocking out baddies has to be the most fun, though.
2. Boot jets. Repulsors also help Iron Man fly. Put 'em in boots, aim them at the ground, and off he goes. Glove repulsors allow Iron Man to steer or reverse direction in flight. Sound impossible? Of course it is. Remember that we're talking about a comic book character.
3. The arc reactor. Of all the reasons T.A.L.O.S. isn't Iron Man, it's the arc reactor, a self-sustaining source of near-limitless energy that fits into the armor's chest plate. Firing repulsor rays and flying is no big deal when you've the equivalent of the entire world's nuclear energy supply at your disposal. Neither IBM nor the U.S. Army has the budget or the resources to think so big.
Even so, it's fun to consider what could be. T.A.L.O.S. isn't Iron Man, but it's a step in the right direction.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of IBM and Walt Disney at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+, Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.
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