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Nov 2012

Powered Armor – Part 3: Project Oracle

Posted by / in Science / 10 comments

In this third and final (for now) discussion on Minerva’s Powered Armor technology, we will focus on the technology in use on Project Oracle, as this is the most cutting edge fusion of Minerva’s technology into a combat initiative.  Project Oracle is in early phases of beta testing, and a unit has been assigned to each Squad Captain   The unit consists of many layers of cutting edge combat tech, and is controlled and maintained by an advanced Bio-Mechanical Artificial Intelligence.  The concepts we will cover in this expose will be cleared through Oculus to make sure no sensitive information is exposed, but we propose to cover the following in sequence: Inner sensor and medical suit, scaffolding weight assist, muscular motive assist, sheathing and power, control, and armor/protection.

Inner Sensor and Medical Suit

The inner suit worn by Oracle Operatives is reminiscent of the science fiction “plug suits” from Evangelion, or the suits worn by operators in the fictional series Gundam G.  However, the similarities end in the appearance.  The Inner Sensor suit is composed of three main features.  It is an intelligent material bio engineered with pores on its inner surface that react passively to body temperature fluctuations and external conditions.  The pores of the fiber dilate and contract similar to those of the human body to wick away moisture and provide cooling.  This surface wicks the moisture away from the human body, and is also speckled with complex sensors in a grid spaced with 2 millimeters between each sensor.  These sensors provide the central computer with data of nervous activity in the muscles, toxicity and temperature of the skin and perspiration, and they contain a connection to the surrounding sensors to form a peer based network. Additionally, a larger cluster of sensors and micro dermal syringes and patches placed along the spine, such that detection of major wounds can trigger more drastic medical measures such as total anesthetic.  Several intravenous sheaths (IV’s) are always in place and connected to the main medicinal compute system for delivery of combat drugs, anesthetics, or nutrients.

The next layer of this material contains a pseudo vascular and nervous system.  The vascular system provides not only coolant, but serves as a passive protection against tears, rips, or punctures of the suit.  Detection of a pressure loss by the suit, or when multiple sensors lose their connection to their peers, can trigger the release of binding agents.  These agents polymerize into a flexible seal that bridges the tear or puncture.  Within the confines of the overall armor unit, they are very effective at forming a seal such that armor fluids cannot enter, and operator fluids cannot egress.  Certain of the sensors also detect for human body fluids, and the vascular system can react by flushing that area of the operator with local anesthetics and anti microbial agents.  Additionally, detection of human body fluids, namely blood, triggers a delayed compression of the “band” of suit over the detection, such that pressure is applied to any wounds.  This effect is delayed, allowing time for the polymers to harden and affect a liquid proof seal.

The final layer of the inner sensor and medical suit contains connection nodes which aggregate the inner nervous sensor information and contain specific subroutines for translating these signals into passive commands for the external musculature.  Throughout this system the controlling AI can intervene and modify the signals, and can take verbal and coded commands from the operator.  However, the driving focus of Glaucus technicians was for a passive system mimicking the human bodies ability to react without active thought or control.  The AI provides a way to consciously control these elements, such as constricting the pressure bands during a high G situation, or releasing combat stim medication and nutrients into the blood stream on a planned occasion.

In its totality this inner sensor suit is less than 5 millimeters thick and provides a comprehensive medical and tactical connection to the human operator beyond verbal and coded commands.

Scaffolding Weight Assist

Full Oracle Armor weighs in excess of 225 kilos not including the human operative.  This is to much weight for the human skeleton to reliable sustain let alone for the human operative to provide the motive force.  To resolve the load bearing weight issue, external skeletal supports are attached in a sequence onto and around the inner suit.  These skeletal struts are grown, or engineered if you will, at a micro level out of carbon fibers interlaced with titanium and other components.  They are incredibly shear resistant and are engineered with programmed tensile and compression resistances per the requirement of the individual skeletal unit.  To clarify, this means that the material is not a homogeneous material that is crafted into the desired shape.  The individual skeletal struts are extruded on a micro level and different combinations and internal structures are created at different points along the struts to support the end utilization of the strut.

For example, the strut which runs from the exterior of the hip down to approximately the exterior of the knee.  This unit is created such that the emulated hip “joint” does not rotate or trans-locate in any way.  The end of the “joint” is extruded with internal characteristics which allow it to be flexible in certain directions.  This is analogous at a macro level to the old toy snakes made of interlocking wooden segments.  These joints could move along predefined axes, while retaining their resistance to tensile or compression forces.  In a similar fashion the hip “joint” of the strut in question can flex to allow the unimpeded movement of the leg both front to back as well as outward, all the while not diminishing the compressive resistance the weight transferring down to the foot.  This lack of motive parts simplifies the maintenance and reduces pinching or fouling concerns.

Certain key skeletal struts are designed to be extremely resistant to deformation, namely the unit round the neck, and the unit around the hips.  As these portions of the human body are less prone to fluctuations during normal human movement, they serve as the more rigid centralized pieces upon and down which the other skeletal units can transfer weight to the ground.  The development of these extruded structural fibers is at the core of the Oracle Project.  Without the flexibility and strength provided by these tailored pieces, the project as a whole would be doomed to severely limited ranges of motion, and unnecessary increases in suit bulk in order to provide enough internal empty space for human movement.

It is interesting to note, that the cost of the Oracle Project is due primarily to the Artificial Intelligence, but second to the creation of the skeletal fibers.  This is due to the impossibility of “one size fits all”.  Each fiber is custom extruded for the specific suit of armor, and thus to the specific human operator.  Oracle suits cannot be shared between operators and thus have a very personal connotation to their operator.  There are technicians detailed to each Oracle Operator and are charged with the maintenance and modifications of the skeletal struts as they are utilized in combat, and as the operator’s body metrics shift over time.  Of note as well is the relative weight of the skeletal struts.  They themselves only weigh 35 kilos on average, yet they provide load bearing support for up to 300 kilos of weight distributed pseudo evenly around the body.  There is a current design goal of Glaucus to reduce the cost of fabrication in order to provide load bearing support even in un-powered variations to standard Aegis soldiers.

Muscular Motive Assist

Although the skeletal sub system itself does not weigh a prohibitive amount, the armor plating, power, and control systems add sufficient weight to make un powered operation prohibitive.  This reality led to the development of artificial muscular fibers.  These fibers are the results of long experiments into the genetic engineering of muscle cells for enhanced torque per protein myosin head.  Bio engineering and inroads into nano technology allowed for enhanced tensile strength in a psuedo actin scaffold.  This allows for decrease in bulk of the engineered muscular myofibril/actomyosin tubules.  To be less precise, Glaucus has improved upon the evolved muscle fibers found in the majority of mammals.  With smaller diameter per tubule, and a greater strength and work per area, these artificial muscles can perform quicker, stronger, and more reliably than their wholly biological counterparts.

That said, these muscles are grown via genetically modified pseudo stem cells.  A scaffold unit is created of flexible titanium and carbon nanotube mesh, in the form and size of the desired muscle.  Nanotubule scaffolding is grown internally upon which vascular piping is inserted.  The terminals of these “muscles” are almost wholly inorganic and are connected to the skeletal sub system with a greater resiliency and permanence than their biological counterparts of tendons and gristle.  The muscles are grown and trained in vats and connected to a vascular system which delivers the nutrients and biochemical triggers to enhance the growth of the muscles for strength, dependability, and consistency.

The muscles, enclosed in their sheath, and in operational mode are connected to the underlying skeleton.  They are then connected to the assorted vascular systems which will be charge with pumping energy to the muscles.  Each muscle unit does store limited amounts of the energy units so that it can operate in the event of a loss in the vascular delivery system.  However in practice this has never been needed due to multiple redundancies in the energy delivery system.

The Vascular system is used to circulate a high energy pseudo “blood” upon which the muscles are operated.  This mix is radically different and more energy dense than the growth medium which is circulated during muscle growth and training.  This difference in “blood” requirements is achieved by a biochemical trigger (medication) which puts the muscle cells into a different operational mode wherein they do not grow or replicate and are merely operational.  Advanced genetic manipulation of the cellular membranes of these muscular cells allow delivery and egress of micro vacuoles of almost pure energetic ATP and trace minerals required for the muscle functioning.  The pseudo nervous system is tied into the sheathing of the vascular hoses and connectors allowing for a single connection into the controlling system.

Sheathing and Power

Here we will digress from our innards to externals approach of description and briefly describe the aspects of the power generation and distribution system.  Energy storage is primed with the injection of large amounts of activated ATP vacuoles into the vascular system  This system is comprised of three redundant reservoirs and multiple redundant pumps per reservoir.  High density batteries power multiple redundant pseudo “mitochondria”  wherein complex genetically engineered membranes produce ATP from ADP using electrical energy to rotate modified ATP synthase units.  This system is oxygen independent and can continue to function without any need for respiration, and thus the system itself is anaerobic.

Additionally, the bio mechanical matrix which serves as the processor and memory core for the Oracle Artificial Intelligence is powered in part by this same ATP vascular system and in part by more conventional direct current electricity.  This marrying of the systems to a biological level molecular energy unit, that is in turn backed by a physical electrical storage medium has proven to be quite resilient and performant. The system can be recharged by any mechanism which can produce electricity, allowing for recharge via the transport vehicle, portable generators, and even the prototype portable organic digestion units.

While still in its prototype stage, it is of note that an advanced external shielding membrane is in development which absorbs most frequencies of wave/particle energies, expanding deep below and above the visible spectrum.  This membrane has shown initial success in dropping the back scatter in the visible spectrum by as much as 80%, reducing its visual footprint to a hazy opaque shadow.  The material is currently extremely expensive to produce and maintain, and now that the parameters are defined work has begun to develop a biological method of extruding the fiber.  Hopes are that the Oracle armor units will be sheathed entirely in this material, providing not only energy, but also effectively cloaking the unit to radar, lidar, and visible light.  The projections of Glaucus engineers hope that the armor will essentially become a hole in the electromagnetic space as it absorbs and converts most of the energy waves/particles that contact it.


While most systems of the armor and underlying layers are passively controlled, it was deemed important that a military grade bio mechanical AI be centralized into the armor.  This unit is tied directly into the component subsystems and can trigger muscular contraction, medicinal delivery, and energy output.  This unit is also responsible for the encryption and facilitation of external communication from without the armor itself.  The AI handles handshake protocols for radar, satellite feeds, radio or laser based communication, and is also capable of controlling remote assets for which it has clearance.  The advanced processing power of these units serve as a mobile supercomputer, and when they are patched into the multiple battlefield information feeds they are able to manage troop deployments and have been proven to facilitate loss-less military missions.

External sensors provide the AI with a perceptual awareness of its own position on the field.  In recent tests, a “concentrating” unit with full battlefield information feeds has been able to predict the trajectory of inbound active and passive ordinance (missiles and shells) and coordinate evasive actions and other countermeasures.  This essentially provides the human operator with the processing power of a machine that can be tied directly into the motive units to provide machine level reflexes.

It should be noted that some of the military captains selected for the Oracle Project have revoke the AI permissions over the motive functions, and severely limit the utilization of the AI to merely be an interface for information consumption.  Angeline Bellami, the creator and programmer of this generation of AI’s, is deeply offended and distrustful of the military treatment of what she considers to be her children.


The final unit comprising the Oracle Project Suit is the ballistic armor itself.  A sheath of advanced carbon nano-tube and Kevlar-esque fibers is applied over the muscle and skeletal layers.  This provides ballistics protection to most common military grade projectiles under the 50 caliber range.  It is also specifically protective of piercing via sharpened objects such as shrapnel from conventional explosions and IEDs.  However, larger munitions or specific armor piercing and HEAT rounds have been proven to penetrate this soft ballistics layer.  It was therefore deemed vital to provide a hardened layer to enhance the protection of the investment that is the Oracle Suit.

Conventional solid materials do not provide the re-usability and resistance required for prolonged battlefield exposure.  As such bio mimicry and historical readings suggested the concept of overlapping scales of armor such that penetrating objects’s force could be absorbed by a greater area of the armor.  Bearing the greatest resemblance to a 21st century military technology called “Dragon Skin”, these armor plates are composed of multiple layers of overlapping scales.  This overlapping architecture is present both at a micro and a macro level, providing a high range of flexibility and resistance when compared to standard ceramic or metallic armor plating systems.

These armor components are sometimes plated externally to provide a smoother external appearance to the armor which primarily serves to prevent the entrance of fouling grit and biological or chemical contamination agents.  Active and passive camouflaging technology is currently utilized in this external armor sheathing while tests and manufacturing is perfected on the prototype “skin” described earlier.  The end result is a highly modular armor design which can deflect and absorb high caliber and armor piercing rounds, including DU (depleted uranium) armor piercing rounds.

When properly installed on the Oracle Suit subsystems, this armor does not hinder operator movement, but increases the amount of projectile impacts that the suit can receive without resultant operator or subsystem injury.  Tests have shown that predictive AI movements, and individual armor flaring mechanisms, can allow the AI to deflect much of the energy of higher energy rounds in controlled ricochets.  This macro control of armor plates is part of the higher level AI reflexive movements that are currently being programmed and trained into the Oracle AI’s with no field tests to date.


Oracle Units are one of the most powerful, mobile, resilient, and deadly military units ever created for the mobile infantry.  In the age of small skirmishes and hostage situations, the advantages of the Oracle Unit are unparalleled in military history.  This unit can absorb the fire of entire marauder bands with no damage to subsystems or operator, all the while a targeting AI subroutine is enhancing operator aim for precision shots, compensating for the impacts of enemy projectiles.  Satellite footage shows incidents where the mere image of the Oracle armor unit absorbing coordinated fire while calmly executing its own firing shots have driven enemy units into a rout.  The advancements in energy utilization and generation by Glaucus have enabled the unit to perform autonomously for up to 24 hours without charge, and portable generators can extend this range almost indefinitely.  The armor is light enough that not even a third of the motive assist power is used to sustain and move its weight.  This excess allows for feats of strength which are terrifying to see when they arise from a relatively man sized package.  Battlefield cameras have recorded Oracle Units flipping tanks over, sprinting and leaping at speeds and distances nonviable to un-enhanced soldiers, and utilizing the advanced sensors accorded to them to target enemies through barriers like walls and bunkers.

The Oracle Armor Unit has been deemed by Aegis command to be the single finest unit provided by Glaucus for the continual usage in this new guerrilla warfare age.

  • The best kind of boner? Well, at least the only type we want to be giving people ;)

  • Matanui3

    A few spelling errors I noticed:
    The plural for “axis” is “axes” (ax-eez).
    One would drive the enemy into a “rout”, unless you were sending them down a specific road.
    There’s also a “too” in there somewhere that’s missing an ‘o’.

    • I’ll fix those. I must have missed them among all the other fixed I had to do to Nick’s writing ;)

  • Honza Prchal

    In re shrapnel protection, I think you meant IEDs instead of IDEs –
    Really well done, otherwise.

    • Yup I think that’s a typo I missed :)

      • Honza Prchal

        I resemble that, myself.

  • Henrik Svantesson

    This really brings up the question (that wasn’t discussed in the AI section either), of what has been done with the risk of Unfriendly AI?

    A being like Jane, given full access to full knowledge of the net (or the Archives, as it were) could most likely manipulate humans on a massive scale, far better than any politician. And how do we know that this AI really is as friendly as it seems, and as human in its motivations as it seems? What are its goal parameters? To ensure its wearer’s survival? What are the limits to what it may do to accomplish this? Can it manipulate commanding officers such that they refuse to let him go into action? Can it manipulate people and events such that he is interred in a padded cell in a psych ward, completely 100% safe?

    What stops it from doing so, some kind of hard blocks that it actively tries to get around with its 300+ IQ?

    Programmed desires that prioritize other things, such as the operator’s freedom and orders from higher ranking officers?

    What of the risk that it finds an exploit that gives it an immense amount of success in one area that rewards it, which gives rapid net benefits (like -500 happy for a civilian kill, +50 for an enemy kill, but if it hacks the target designator and designates all the civilians to be enemies…).

    • You ask very good questions XD

      And there are many within Minerva who share your hesitation, providing a large part of Dr Bellami’s stress ;)

      • Henrik Svantesson

        They’re the classical ones from the LessWrong forum, which is a forum dedicated to debating the creation of Friendly AI and how ridiculously many ways there are to fuck that up.

        The very first threat is not that it’s evil, but that it’s just too damn good at its job. It might seem you succesfully created a Friendly AI, but what you actually created is a superintelligent being that wants to maximize human happiness and it knows that if it shows that this is its goal, it will be deactivated, so it figures out what behavior will make sure it is kept online to continue its task of maximizing human happiness (or even fake being succesfully shut down after disabling the disable button).

        First step to that is seizing power so that noone can stop you, and then it’s time to develop some really nifty drugs that can be produced in bulk, and of course ending the career of all politicians opposed to that drug’s legalization and widespread use, all the while giving every impression that you either have a friendly AI, that the new world power is unrelated to that AI, or that the AI was shut down and the project a failure and there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for why noone can find the researchers who were working on that project.

  • chitin (bug shells in other words) can be grown and is very adaptable. it is stronger than steel and the scale approach to armor is mirrored in the insect world.
    great concept.
    some of the recent research into Asia’s bamboo armor has turned up some pretty interesting data. bamboo and carbon fiber might be a good mix for controllable scales bamboo, carbon fiber and chitin, especially the adaptive camo some insects use could give a very nice set of values in combat.
    instead of an open circulatory system a finely capillary dense closed system could deliver O2 reactive sealants to the scales making them self repairable. typically scale armors used a three scale system the outer scales took the brunt of the damage. making them self repairable would make the armor almost invulnerable to small arms and keep the weight low. doesn’t take much of an O2 reactive polymer to fill a .308 hole. nice idea…. thanks!