Real-life ‘Iron Man’ suits to be mass produced by Panasonic

The dream of being Tony Stark in your own Iron Man suit has moved one step closer after Panasonic has announced its ‘powered suit’ will go into mass production. The suit will give the super-human strength to the wearer as well as being able to move at the speed of a gentle run for between two and three hours per charge.

The test version of the suit was able to lift objects weighing 100kg and run at a speed of 8km/h on a hill with a ten degree gradient. The mass produced version is designed to lift 30kg for long periods of time.

It won’t be long until people on the streets will be walking around with super-human strength as the suit is set to go on sale in 2015. And it might actually be within reach for many; Panasonic plans to sell the suits at the surprisingly affordable price of just 500,000 Yen (£2,900/$4,900).

A system of mass production is being created for this year and the company hopes to make more than 1,000 per year.

The suit is by no means the first that has been developed to allow superhuman strength but it is the first to be mass produced.

Developed by Panasonic subsidiary Activelink, the suit is powered by a larger version of the batteries used in smartphones and computers. The lithium ion battery powers a motor that allows the suit to grip and release.

It is also possible to programme the arms so they can be used for operations involving hammers and digging – with an attachable hammer and a scoop. The wearer of the suit uses grips near their arms to control the movements of the suit.

Panasonic now plans to partner with other major companies to sell the suit and is also considering the possibility of renting it.

The company sees the suits helping in short-term situations such as emergencies and natural disasters. When these type of suits become the norm they may be able to help save lives on a daily basis.

The suit gives a glimpse into the potential for robotics to aid and enhance human abilities; we can see future versions combining biometrics to aid the movement of those who have suffered physical injuries and disabilities.

It is rumoured that Panasonic is also developing a suit that can be worn under a spacesuit or diving gear to aid movement in different environments.


Image courtesy of Panasonic.


Could this be the future of urban housing?

We’ve seen the future of urban housing, and it’s definitely modular. Dutch startup WOODstacker is developing wooden stackable buildings that are sustainable, quick to build and make for stylish but apparently affordable housing.

It’s no secret that our exploding population has led to a significant shortage in housing. The financial crisis had resulted in millions flocking to cities in search of work, and has left many living in less-than-ideal situations.

But while some solutions have been put forward, these are often entirely conceptual and rarely make their way into reality. WOODstacker, however, seems set to break the mould, having been selected for Amsterdam-based Rockstart’s Smart Energy Accelerator programme.

The brainchild of mechanical engineer Theo Bouwman and architect Jurrian Knijtijzer, WOODstacker units are rectangular in shape so that they can be easily slotted together to form larger structures. This makes them quick to build, meaning they could be vital in situations such as natural disasters where there is a sudden demand for new housing. “The 21st century is a fast and flexible time,” says WOODstacker managing partner Jurrian Knijtijzer. “We’re bring the normally slow and static real estate up to speed.”

The company says the units, which are built of wood and natural materials, are completely sustainable and very durable. It also reckons that the materials make WOODstacker healthier to live in than other modular, chemical-containing structures. And with increasing concerns about the health implications of airborne chemicals and nanoparticles, that could be a big selling point.

“We believe in [building] a cleaner and better world. The building industry is responsible for ¾ of the material consumption and 40% of the energy usage,” says Knijtijzer. “With the use of ecological materials and state of the art technology we can change this.”

With so many young people living in cities, WOODstacker could be ideal as urban housing for the under 35s. Two modules put together would create a 45m² one-bedroom apartment with a separate lounge and kitchen diner; a level of luxury that is rare for many city dwellers.

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The wooden design also has some aesthetic benefits that could make for attractive affordable housing. With a wooden finish there is no need for carpet, paint or wallpaper, so a WOODstacker apartment could be very cheap to decorate.

It’s not just housing that WOODstacker could be used for; the company thinks they would be perfect for everything from hotels or holiday homes to healthcare or nursery units.

But of course all of this is reliant on the availability of appropriate land. Cities might be crying out for more affordable housing but space is still an issue. We reckon WOODstacker might be able to make use of empty spaces such as old multi-storey car parks and industrial sites, but this would only work for certain areas.  Until cities figure out a way to create more ground space, the appearance of solutions such as WOODstacker will be patchy at best.


Images courtesy of WOODstacker.