The idea of exoskeletons arose in the 19th century; however, more serious research begin in the 1960s. Although comics and movies portrayed the technology as metal armor, such as the exosuit Tony Stark wears as Iron Man, it turns out the developments resemble spandex, such as the apparel Robin Hood wore.
Today, development of this technology focuses on muscular assistance. Although metal versions provide physical protection, there are scenarios where it is more important to be lightweight and have mobility, such as for military or medical purposes. The extra weight added by an exoskeleton has the potential to cause serious musculoskeletal injuries.
Agencies, such as DARPA’s Warrior Web Program, have focused on the development of lightweight exoskeletons to reduce these injuries. To learn more about the current development of exoskeletons, check out the Science Robotics research article.