Air and Space Museum hosts Incredible Bionic Man


The Incredible Bionic Man will be at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum through December 11. (Kris Connor/Getty Images for Showtime)

The first walking, talking “bionic man” built entirely from synthetic body parts has come to Washington.

The six-foot-tall robot with a human face unveiled at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum was built to showcase medical breakthroughs in electronically controlled, or bionic, body parts and artificial organs.

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 nearly died.

The Incredible Bionic Man cost $1 million and was made from 28 artificial body parts on loan from biomedical innovators. 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, the company that built the machine.

“The people who made it decided to program it with the personality of a 13-year-old boy,” he said. “So he’s not really the most polite of people to have a conversation with.”

The robot will be on display at the museum until December 11.

— Reuters

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