UK & World News

  • 6 February 2013, 0:43

One Million Dollar Bionic Man Makes Its Debut

A million-dollar bionic man - complete with artificial organs, synthetic blood and robot limbs - is set to go on display at the Science Museum in central London.

Costing almost 640,000 ($1m), it is cheaper than the Six Million Dollar Man from the cult 1970s TV series, but the 6ft 6in (2m) humanoid nonetheless has a lot in common with the screen version.

The artificial man was assembled by a team of leading robotics experts for a new Channel 4 documentary, How To Build A Bionic Man.

It incorporates some of the latest advances in mechanical limbs, as well as an artificial pancreas, kidney, spleen and trachea, and a functional blood circulatory system.

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.

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 components could theoretically be welded to a human body to replace missing or worn out parts.

The aim was to show how close medicine has got to what seemed like pure science fiction only a couple of decades ago.

Although the bionic man was built for Channel 4, it is going on display at the Science Museum to allow people to see close up how quickly the science of bionics is progressing.

Clare Matterson, of the Wellcome Trust, which is supporting the exhibition, said: "Throughout history people have always sought to enhance themselves to overcome disabilities or to become 'bigger, better, stronger and faster'.

"Science is making aspirations and even fantasy ever more possible. We only have to look back at last summer's Paralympics to see how transforming technology has become."

The 1970s show The Six Million Dollar Man featured a former astronaut whose body was largely rebuilt with artificial parts after he suffered a near-death accident.

Lee Majors played Colonel Steve Austin, whose bionic left eye allowed him to see miles into the distance. His bionic left arm allowed him to lift bulldozers and his bionic legs allowed him to run at 90mph. The show's catchphrase was: "We can rebuild him."

The Science Museum exhibit opens on Thursday and aims to explore how perceptions of human identity change as progress is made in bionics.

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