World’s first bionic man wows museum visitors
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.”