A bionic man costing about $1 million was built to showcase just how far medical technology has come over the years. Engineers from the Shadow Robot Company assembled the walking robot in 2013 and showed it off at New York Comic Con Friday.
The bionic man, dubbed "Frank," is able to walk, talk, circulate blood through its body, purify that blood with its artificial kidneys, and is also fitted with retinal implants to "see," although it has no brain to with which to interpret the signals. Roboticist and researcher James Pope had one of the most significant roles in the creation of the bionic man- finding all the parts.
"I was talking to everyone from roboticists, exoskeleton makers, bionic foot makers, and people who design leading prosthetic hands," he told Yahoo TV while at the Comic Con booth. "People who are pushing the boundaries with the artificial organs that they've made and trying to bring all these things together to create the Bionic Man as you see here."
The bionic man has around 60 to 70 percent of the functionality of a human being, and at six-and-a-half feet tall, it can walk, sit, while its artificial heart pumps blood through its body. However, it has no liver, digestive system or brain. The only "skin" it has is a face, based on 36-year-old social psychologist Bertolt Meyer, who has a personal interest in the project, as the head and face are modeled after his own.
"We wanted to showcase that the technology can provide aesthetic prostheses for people who have lost parts of their faces, for example, their nose, due to an accident or … cancer," he told the Associated Press. "I thought it was rather revolting to be honest … It was quite a shock to see a face that closely resembles what I see in the mirror every morning."
Frank's parts cost $1 million, which for Dr. Meyer, beg the question of who can actually access the best technology available.
"Who is entitled to this technology because it comes with a very high price tag?" he asked. "A good wheelchair … can cost maybe a few thousand dollars, a really good one. The bionic exoskeleton that restores a sense of walking to our Bionic Man will set you back more than $100,000. A lot of insurances won't cover that."
A documentary was made detailing the bionic man's creation. "The Incredible Bionic Man" will premiere Sunday, Oct. 20 at 9 p.m. on the Smithsonian Channel or can be viewed online here.
To see an interview with Dr. Richard Welker, one of the lead researchers on the project, click below.