Friday, August 15, 2014

Powered armor and the scalability of "super-technology"

Astute readers have noticed that I claim we don't have super-technology. "But wait," they say. "What about armored heroes like Scrapper and Lawsuit, or villains like Gridlock?" So I'll talk about powered armor, and those heroes and villains specifically.

Scrapper

Scrapper's superpower is iron manipulation. He can mold it, shape it, cause it to flow like water, whatever. Apparently he's got unlimited amounts of the stuff, too. The armor does things that require large amounts of electricity. I did some research and courtesy of a friend up in the New York area, I got this:
Scrapper generates bioelectricity at Stage 4 levels. Suit uses induction to draw power & run systems. Suit is a modified Raytheon XOS 4 w/ battery packs removed & induction system replaced. Iron superstructure maintained by Scrapper's power & is not part of original Raytheon spec. Company rep claims XOS 4 is "on loan" for "field test". Sure.
So there's no magic here, just the usual hydraulics and superpowers we've come to expect. The suit isn't wearable by anyone else because Scrapper's powers are required to make it work.

Lawsuit

First, let me say this is the corniest hero name on record. Second, she's kind of the same deal. From my Los Angeles source:
Lawsuit is wearing a highly modified CYBERDYNE HAL X suit, built by a company in Japan. She has considerable electrical control powers and uses those to drive the suit's motors. Her machine symbiosis ability is on par with Dr. Link, formerly of the American All-Stars and now working with Persona advising its Icons team. Private sources who followed the money trail uncovered a Persona connection to CYBERDYNE, suggesting that Link himself might have had a hand in the design of the Lawsuit.
Lawsuit can't just shape iron, but she can interface with electronics mentally, so again, she's providing a good chunk of what a "super-suit" might need to work for regular people.

Gridlock

This is a matter of public record, but it hasn't been widely disseminated, so here goes. Gridlock has significant electromagnetic powers (he got his name by shutting down the LA electrical grid and I-5). He uses those to project open-air holograms and manipulate metal, and these days he prefers to assemble metal into big masses and hit people with it, dressing it up like a high-tech robot. Stories that he's a quadriplegic or quadruple amputee wearing a suit are rumors, nothing more.

Powered armor progress

For the mundanes out there who'd like to fly around in a super-suit, don't give up hope - but you aren't there yet. Companies like Raytheon and CYBERDYNE aren't alone. There's about a dozen people working on powered exoskeletons, mostly for military applications.

These companies have two things working in their favor. First, they can get durable supers to help test their inventions. Insurance for this sort of research is very favorable when nothing your machine does is physically capable of injuring its wearer. And second, they've been able to reverse-engineer the physiological adaptions of people like Brawl and try to incorporate them into their products.

They have one huge factor working against them: power. Supers generate their own energy, but a suit can't do the same. There's been discussions (on Wavelength, natch) about how super-blood will be kept in a container in the suit and harnessed for this purpose, but that's not realistic even if someone could make it work. Until someone creates a really efficient generator that can fit into a power suit, their applications and power will be limited.