While James Cameron introduced the power loader to audiences in Aliens (the “Get away from her, you bitch!” scene), he featured their militaristic cousins in his 2009 film Avatar. The MK-6 Amplified Mobility Platform (or “AMP” suit) is used by the RDA Corporation on Pandora for everything from moving around cargo to combat. These massive mech suits are equipped with an equally massive autocannon and a large knife.

The movements of a human operator’s arms and legs are translated to the suit’s exterior limbs and amplified; as the operator swings his arm, the AMP’s corresponding giant metal arm moves in a giant arc.

“The super hydraulics are all very strong so [the AMP suit] can crush buildings and do all the things that, like, a tank could do,”

– Avatar vehicle designer Ty Ruben Ellingson in a promotional video.

The Herculean strength granted to the AMP suit’s operator lets space marines tote a giant 30-mm autocannon into battle as well as a mighty – enormous – ‘knife’.

“The Mitsubishi MK-6 Amplified Mobility Platform is a distant descendant of the first military exoskeletons used on Earth in the mid-21st century. It was improved during military service in a myriad of combat theaters – from arctic to the jungle to desert – over the decades. Sealed and pressurized models for toxic environments were developed as well. The suit is used extensively on the Moon and Mars colonies (where they are powered by fuel cells and/or monopropellant ceramic turbines). Its well-tested capabilities have proved invaluable in the deadly environment of Pandora. The Na’vi name for it roughly translates as “shield that walks” or “not-demon walking”.”

– Source: Avatar Wiki

In this final fight scene from Avatar (2009), Jake Sully in his Na’vi Avatar goes head to head against Colonel Miles Quaritch in an “AMP” suit.

Fiction to Fact?

Today, exosuits are no longer confined to the pages of comic books or far-future science fiction flicks directed by James Cameron. The military is actively investigating the technology for enhancing its soldiers, Edge of Tomorrow, or Elysium- style.

Various civilian and military programs across the world are looking into powered exoskeleton suits that could let soldiers lug around heavy equipment — as well as bigger guns — while also aiding in rescue work, construction, and injury rehabilitation.

The U.S military research and development branch, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has issued various grants since 2000 under its Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation program.

There is ongoing research at Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, and Honda to devise variously powered exoskeletons. Japanese researchers at a company called “Cyberdyne” (a name shared by the fictional firm that creates Skynet in Cameron’s Terminator franchise) have invented an Iron Man-style body cladding that aids in physical therapy, named Robot Suit Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL).

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army will be equipped with exoskeletons in the near future as China is investing in different variations of exoskeletons.