The Warrior Web is a new DARPA project to create a kind of undersuit that significantly boosts endurance, carrying capacity and overall warfighter effectiveness.
(DARPA's Warrior Web)
The Warrior Web program seeks to develop the technologies required to prevent and reduce musculoskeletal injuries caused by dynamic events typically found in the warfighter’s environment. The ultimate program goal is a lightweight, conformal under-suit that is transparent to the user (like a diver’s wetsuit). The suit seeks to employ a system (or web) of closed-loop controlled actuation, transmission, and functional structures that protect injury prone areas, focusing on the soft tissues that connect and interface with the skeletal system.
In addition to direct injury mitigation, Warrior Web will have the capacity to augment positive work done by the muscles, to reduce the physical burden, by leveraging the web structure to impart joint torque at the ankle, knee, and hip joints. The suit seeks to reduce the metabolic cost of carrying a typical assault load, as well as compensate for the weight of the suit itself, while consuming no more than 100 Watts of electric power from the battery source.
One of the earliest references to the idea of a metallic exoskeleton would probably meet DARPA's criteria. In his 1932 classic A Conquest of Two Worlds, Golden Age sf great Edmond Hamilton wrote about how scientists solved the problem of how to work in the heaviest gravity environment in the solar system:
The greatest difficulty, Crane saw, was Jupiter's gravitation...
Earth's scientists solved the problem to some extent by devising rigid metallic clothing not unlike armor which would support the interior human structure against Jupiter's pull. Crane's men were also administered compounds devised by the biochemists for the rapid building of bone to strengthen the skeleton structure...
(Read more about Hamilton's Rigid Metallic Clothing)