The artificial heart, made by SynCardia Systems in Tucson, Ariz., has beenimplanted in more than 100 peopleto replace their ailing hearts for six to 12 months while they wait for a transplant, Walker said. The circulatory system, built by medical researcher Alex Seifalian of University College London,consists of veins and arteries made from a polymer used to create synthetic organs of any shape.
While it might not satisfy the Scarecrow from "The Wizard of Oz," the bionic man's "brain" can mimic certain functions of the human brain. He has a retinal prosthesis, made by Second Sight in Sylmar, Calif., which can restore limited sight in blind people. He also sports a cochlear implant, speech recognition and speech production systems.
The engineers equipped the bionic man with a sophisticated chatbot program that can carry on a conversation. The only problem is, it has the persona of "an annoying 13-year-old boy from the Ukraine," Walker said.
The most unnerving aspect of the bionic man, though, is his prosthetic face. It's an uncanny replica of Meyer's face. In fact, when Meyer first saw it, he hated it, describing it on the show as "awkward."
The bionic man successfully simulates about two-thirds of the human body. But he lacks a few major organs, including a liver, stomach and intestines, which are still too complex to replicate in a lab.
The bionic man brings up some ethical and philosophical questions: Does creating something so humanlike threaten notions of what it means to be human? What amount of body enhancement is acceptable? And is it wrong that only some people have access to these life-extending technologies?
The access issue is especially troublesome, Walker said. "The preservation of life and quality of life has become basically a technical question and an economic question."
The bionic man made his U.S. debut at New York Comic Con Oct. 10-13, and he will be on display at Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. this fall.
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