I love the direction DARPA is going in with robotic exoskeletons for our warfighters.
Helping soldiers perform their jobs easier, more capably, and with less injury using human augmentation is good sense.
Military men and women often carry weight in excess of 100 pounds for long distances and perform other tasks that challenge human physical endurance.
Creating a durable "soft, lightweight under[or over]suit that would help reduce injuries and fatigue and improve soldiers ability to efficiently perform their missions" is an smart and achievable goal, and one that would give us great advantage in the battlefield.
The timeframe of 2012-2016 is an aggressive deadline to form the mix of core technologies, integrate them, and develop a wearable prototype.
I think the goal of having this be "potentially wearable by 90% of the U.S. Army population" is notable as not something that is for just special forces or unique missions, but rather something that can medically protect and make for a superior fighting force for all of our men and women.
This is really only the beginning of human augmentation with sensors, storage, processors, and robotics to make our warriors fight with the best that both man and machine has to offer. It's not a fight of man versus machine, but of man and machine.
Seeing and hearing farther and with more clarity, connecting and communicating timely and under all conditions, processing loads of data into actionable information, fighting and performing mission with superior skills (strength, speed, dexterity, and endurance) and integrated weapon systems, guiding warriors to their targets and home safely--these are goals that man-machine augmentation can bring to reality.
And of course, the sheer medical and rehabilitative benefits of these technologies in caring for the sick and disabled in society is enough to "pedal to metal" drive these efforts alone.
Like on the prescient show from the 70's, The Six Million Dollar Man, "We can rebuild him. We have the technology...Better than he was before. Better...stronger...faster."
And I would add healthier and more deadly! ;-)
(Source Photo: here with attribution to DARPA and Boston Dynamics)