World’s first bionic man wows mu­seum visi­tors

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODPOSTER - JBJ REPORTER

IT’S LIKE some­thing out of a scifi movie you might see – the first walk­ing, talk­ing “bionic man” built en­tirely from pros­thetic body parts and ar­ti­fi­cial or­gan im­plants is on show at a mu­seum in the US.

The ro­bot is 1.8 me­tres tall with a hu­man face. Visi­tors to the Smith­so­nian’s Na­tional Air and Space Mu­seum are awed. It was built to show­case med­i­cal break­throughs in elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled, or bionic, body parts and ar­ti­fi­cial or­gans. Th­ese are parts that doc­tors use to re­place body parts or failed or­gans. For ex­am­ple, the bionic man fea­tures an ar­ti­fi­cial but life-like heart.

A “bionic man” was sci­ence fic­tion in the 1970s, when the tele­vi­sion show, The Six Mil­lion Dol­lar Man, showed the adventures of a for­mer as­tro­naut whose body was re­built us­ing syn­thetic parts af­ter he had nearly died.

The In­cred­i­ble Bionic Man costs $1 mil­lion (R10m) and was made from 28 ar­ti­fi­cial body parts. They in­clude a pan­creas, lungs, spleen and cir­cu­la­tory sys­tem.

“The whole idea of the project is to get to­gether all of the spare parts that al­ready ex­ist for the hu­man body to­day (in) one piece. If you did that, what would it look like?” said Ber­tolt Meyer, a so­cial psy­chol­o­gist at the Univer­sity of Zurich in Switzer­land who nar­rates a Smith­so­nian Chan­nel doc­u­men­tary on the ro­bot.

The ro­bot has vir­tu­ally no skin and a face that doesn’t move. It is con­trolled re­motely from a com­puter. Blue­tooth wire­less con­nec­tions are used to op­er­ate its limbs.

The bionic cre­ation’s ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence is sim­i­lar to the Siri ap­pli­ca­tion on the iPhone, said Robert War­bur­ton, a de­sign engi­neer for Shadow Ro­bot, which built the ma­chine. “The peo­ple who made it de­cided to pro­gram it with the per­son­al­ity of a 13-yearold boy,” he said. “So he’s not re­ally the most po­lite of peo­ple to have a con­ver­sa­tion with.”

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