Scientists at defence company Raytheon's Sarcos research facility have developed a powered exoskeleton that boosts the wearer's strength, while retaining agility. The company believes that the new development, codenamed the XOS 2, will be available to consumers to buy in around five years, according to IEEE Spectrum.

The exoskeleton, nicknamed the Iron Man suit after the Marvel comic book character, was originally created for the military to lighten heavy loads soldiers may have had to carry, and help reduce the number of weight-related injuries. Its development builds on the previous model developed in 2008, the XOS 1.

According to Susan Katlin of IEEE Spectrum, the XOS 2 uses a blend of high-pressure hydraulics, sensors, actuators and controllers to operate and carry heavy objects, as well as leaving the wearer free to be quite agile. XOS 2 is made of a lighterweight material than the first model, and uses around half the power.

Projects such as the XOS 2 may have useful applications beyond the battlefield, however. A US man who lost the use of his legs after an accident in 2007 was able to walk for his graduation ceremony, thanks to exoskeleton technology.