I've always been intrigued by robots, robotics, and bionics. Seeing how quickly we are advancing in that technology is certainly encouraging, to
particularly the disabled, to put it mildly.
A British documentary, "How to Build a Bionic Man" will debut a 6 foot 6 inch bionic hominid put together by a team of robot experts to show how the
progress of medicine is bringing to life what was pure science fiction only a few decades ago.
It incorporates some of the latest advances in mechanical limbs, as well as an artificial pancreas, kidney, spleen and trachea, and a functional blood
He even has artificial intelligence and a speech synthesis system allowing him to understand simple statements and respond to questions. The
finished "man" can walk and talk, and apparently says his name is Rex and informs people that he likes Ralph Lauren and rap music.
All of his 'parts' could theoretically be welded to a human body to replace missing or worn out parts.
"Throughout history people have always sought to enhance themselves to overcome disabilities or to become 'bigger, better, stronger and
The man's head features a pair of retinal implants behind his brown irises, to allow him to sense objects in front of him, cochlear implants to allow
him to hear and is covered with artificial skin.
Here he walks with assistance from the Rex exoskeleton.
It seems apt that the program should be hosted by Dr. Bertolt Meyer, a social psychologist from Switzerland. Meyer was born without a left hand,
and wears an iLimb Ultra, a sophisticated prosthetic hand made by Touch Bionics (the same type used in the android) priced at around US$48,000.
Sensors applied to the skin of the residual limb detect muscular movements, which the device translates into hand and finger movements. Meyer is
joined by UK roboticists Richard Walker and Matthew Godden, specialists from the Shadow Robot Company (probably best known for the Shadow dexterous
robot hand). They borrowed £630,000 (approximately $1 million) worth of parts to construct the bionic man, which looks at first glance somewhat
silly. It may not pass for a person, but it does highlight promising current and future technologies
Break-down of the parts include:
A pair of glasses fitted with a camera transmits images to a microchip inserted directly onto the retina. The retina picks up the implant's electrical
pulses, which the brain interprets as shapes and patterns. Although retinal implants have been in development for years, they generally suffer from
poor resolution – but the technology continues to evolve.
A cochlear implant stimulates nerve fibers in the inner ear, generating signals that can be interpreted by the human brain. Unfortunately the bionic
man doesn't really have ears, and has just an internet chat bot program for a brain (so the cochlear implant isn't really being used at all), but you
get the idea. It possesses limited artificial intelligence, relying on standard speech recognition and speech synthesis to respond to spoken words.
More than a thousand patients have received SynCardia's battery-powered artificial heart, but it is still only a temporary solution until a donor can
An experimental gel-like sack containing insulin that liquifies and hardens to release or retain insulin depending on blood glucose levels. Inventor
Joan Taylor (Professor, De Montfort University) believes it is around seven years from general use.
A silicon nano-scale filtration system powered by the patient's blood pressure, that uses a small bio-reactor containing renal tubule cells from a
healthy kidney to perform the job of the real organ. Clinical trials are set for 2017.
The Rex robotic exoskeleton gives the bionic man its balance and ability to walk. It's one of a handful of devices being developed around the world
that augment human strength. Rather than replacing the human legs, it is worn almost like a pair of pants.
Foot and ankle
The iWalk BiOM ankle mimics the actions of the calf muscle and Achilles tendon. It was developed by Professor Hugh Herr, who lost his legs to
frostbite in a climbing accident. Unlike the Rex exoskeleton, this is a prosthetic that is designed to take the place of the lower leg.
It seems like we've still got a long way to go before we can say we've seen a real bionic man. Much of this technology is still only experimental,
and will take years to fully develop, but the program will raise some of the ethical concerns relating to it.
The show airs Feb 7th channel 4.
Also visit this excellent thread about bionics tech put together by Slayer69
Bionics are Becoming Reality
edit on 5-2-2013 by Lonewulph because: (no reason given)