You probably remember last year when the Internet collectively lost control of its bowels over the announcement that the US military was working on TALOS, a powered suit that wasn’t actually anything like what Tony Stark wears but was close enough to get our hearts racing. News outlets were flooded with reports of Iron Man suits and few could ignore the excitement, though it turns out that making a real powered suit is hard–recent reports suggest TALOS won’t be ready until 2018.

While three or four years isn’t exactly soon, it is pretty quick–though if the US military doesn’t get their hustle on, they may end up being second to the powered suit finish line! It looks like the Japanese government is preparing to throw hundreds of millions of yen at a project to develop a powered-assist suit for soldiers in three years–if it is accepted by the Diet for the 2015 budget.

If you have visions of Gundam dancing in your head right now, well, we’re sorry to have to tell you this, but you can put them away. It’ll be less like a science fiction mech suit and more like Honda’s Walking Assist, which, if you haven’t seen them in action before, is the technological equivalent of getting apples while trick-or-treating. Just take a look at the video below…

▼Even the music is sad and despondent…

As unexciting as the Walking Assist is, it does represent a significant advancement in technology. After all, making robots that can walk is actually quite difficult (unless wrapping yourself in tinfoil counts as a robot…), so we can appreciate all the work that Honda put into the Walking Assist. Even if it does leave us disappointed.

That said, we get the feeling that the powered-assist suits the Japanese military is hoping to develop will be a bit more exciting–they will be designed to carry assault rifles after all!

▼Or not. Well, at least the scowl is menacing…


Obviously, the point of these suits isn’t flying or even adding extra armor–they’re actually intended to make soldiers more agile on the field. If you’re wondering how the hell that would make soldiers more agile, it’s a matter of assisting them with lugging all their equipment around and adding a bit of spring to their step. Most of the JSDF troops are running around with a minimum of about 20 kilograms (roughly 44 pounds) of gear, which would be enough to slow anyone down, so we can understand how this would help soldiers get around a bit better. But if the concept art is any indication, it won’t make them look very fierce…

▼Was this drawn by a 6th grader?!

power3Hachima Kikou

The anticipated budget for 2015 is 900 million yen (about 7.7 million US dollars), which seems a bit low, if we’re being honest. Nevertheless, theinitial suits for trial testingare expectedto be ready in three years, based on past development cycles. However, this wouldn’t be the first time the Japanese government has funded powered-assist suits–they budgeted several million yen (several hundred thousand US dollars) in 2012 for research of suits designed to help users lift heavy objects. Japan already has a relatively well developed field of powered-assist suits, so it’s not entirely unreasonable to expect development to only take three years–but we really think they should take an extra year to add rocket shoes or something…

Obviously, the military suits will be sturdier, capable of working around in water, and dust proof, which would definitely be important to keep the suit electronics from going on the fritz. It should go without saying that they’re also aiming to make the suits bulletproof–or at least designed so that being struck by a bullet won’t cause the suits to completely malfunction.

We just hope the end products will look more like the powered-assist suits from Cyberdyne (yes, there’s a Japanese company called Cyberdyne that makes electronics and, no, we don’t know where John Connor is) than whatever that concept art above is.

▼Cyberdyne’s suit for disaster response


While the suits are primarily for hauling around weapons and other war supplies, that’s not the only use they’ll have. Some concept art also depicts soldiers carrying injured people, perhaps in the aftermath of an earthquake. As cool as robots and quasi-mech suits are, we have to admit we like them a whole lot more when they’re used to rescue people than when they’re used to kill people. Remember, JSDF, with great power, comes great responsibility!

Sources/images: Hachima Kikou, Nikkan

▼In case you’ve forgotten about TALOS, here’s a recap from the ever dramatic TomoNews.