As shown in a new documentary, “The Incredible Bionic Man,” engineers use the latest advances in artificial parts and prostheses to create a “human.” The documentary will air on the Smithsonian Channel on Oct. 20, 10 p.m. EDT, but viewers can watch it online prior to next week's premiere.
“The Incredible Bionic Man” focuses on the work of a group of engineers, including Richard Walker from the Shadow Robot Company, Alexander Seifalian from University College London, and Bertolt Meyer, a psychology professor at the University of Zurich. Meyer has had to use a prosthetic limb since he was three months old and served as the model for the “bionic man.”
According to the Associated Press, the engineers created the bionic man using parts from 17 manufacturers, including retina implants, artificial kidneys and an artificial circulation system. Walker served as the lead “roboticist” and his company manufactures modular systems, air muscles and a "Dexterous Hand" that can hold objects like a power drill, fruit and an egg.
Meyer was born with a congenitally missing lower left arm and uses a prosthetic left hand manufactured by Touch Bionics. The i-limb ultra has five individually powered fingers and a variable grip that can be adjusted by the user.
The documentary gives a look at advances that may be seen in the near future. The robot has 60 to 70 percent of the functions of a human, notes AP, even though some of the parts used are in the prototype stage. The bionic man has an artificial heart that pumps artificial blood that carries oxygen throughout the body and it can also sit, stand and walk using a device that is used by individuals who have suffered spinal cord injuries and can no longer walk.
While there have been many advances in the prosthetic field, others still need time to develop. As noted by AP, the bionic man does not have skin, digestive system or a liver. But researchers from MIT are developing artificial liver tissue while researchers from Israel are developing “e-skin systems” that include sensors.
“The Incredible Bionic Man” can be viewed here and on the Smithsonian Channel on Oct. 20 at 10 p.m. EDT. A trailer for the documentary can be viewed below.