He walks, he talks and he has a beating heart, but he's not human — he's the world's first fully bionic man.
Like Frankenstein's monster, cobbled together from a hodgepodge of body parts, the bionic man is an amalgam of the most advanced human prostheses — from robotic limbs to artificial organs to a blood-pumping circulatory system.
The creature "comes to life" in "The Incredible Bionic Man," premiering Sunday (Oct. 20) on the Smithsonian Channel at 9 p.m. EDT/8 p.m. CDT. (Watch Video of the Bionic Man)
Roboticists Rich Walker and Matthew Godden of Shadow Robot Co. in England led the assembly of the bionic man from prosthetic body parts and artificial organs donated by laboratories around the world.
"Our job was to take the delivery of a large collection of body parts — organs, limbs, eyes, heads — and over a frantic six weeks, turn those parts into a bionic man," Walker told LiveScience during an interview. But it's not as simple as connecting everything like Tinkertoys. "You put a prosthetic part on a human who is missing that part," Walker said. "We had no human; we built a human for the prosthetic parts to occupy."
The robot, which cost almost $1 million to build, was modeled in some physical aspects after Bertolt Meyer, a social psychologist at the University of Zurich, in Switzerland, who wears one of the world's most advanced bionic hands. (See Photos of the Bionic Man)
The bionic man has the same prosthetic hand as Meyer — the i-LIMB made by Touch Bionics — with a wrist that can fully rotate and motors in each finger. The hand's grasping abilities are impressive, but the bionic man still drops drinks sometimes.
"He's not the world's best bartender," Walker said.
The robot sports a pair of robotic ankles and feet from BiOM in Bedford, Mass., designed and worn by bioengineer Hugh Herr of MIT's Media Lab, who lost his own legs after getting trapped in a blizzard as a teenager.
To support his prosthetic legs, the bionic man wears a robotic exoskeleton dubbed "Rex," made by REX Bionics in New Zealand. His awkward, jerky walk makes him more Frankensteinian than ever.
But it doesn't end there — the bionic man also has a nearly complete set of artificial organs, including an artificial heart, blood, lungs (and windpipe), pancreas, spleen, kidney and functional circulatory system.