Halloween is approaching and among the ideas for costumes might be Frankenstein, the famous monster brought to life in Mary Shelley’s classic novel.
The idea of creating a human from mechanical parts has long fascinated scientists. And now, in Smithsonian Channel’s new special The Incredible Bionic Man, airing on Sunday, Oct. 20, at 9 p.m. ET/PT, you can watch as what is said to be the “world’s first real Bionic Man” is unveiled.
He is 6-feet-tall and has a functioning circulatory system, a pumping heart and he walks upright—slowly. And, he’s amazing, while also being a little bit eerie.
The documentary puts music to great use in the background to help create drama, but the science is there, too. We get to tag along as a team of engineers led by Richard Walker and Matthew Godden from Shadow Robot Company gather in a London warehouse to assemble all the best artificial body parts from around the world to create the “man.”
Dr. Bertolt Meyer, a social psychologist at the University of Zurich, acts as narrator and guide of the documentary. He’s got a “bionic” hand and is a perfect person to travel the globe to pick up the sophisticated prosthetics. Among the most interesting people he visits is Hugh Herr, who as a teen lost his legs after getting trapped while mountain climbing in a blizzard. He’s the director of biomechatronics at MIT and he has designed bionic ankles that he wears every day. He even says, “Would I wish my legs back? Absolutely not.” His bionic limbs allow him to climb even better than before.
Ethical questions arise with the creation of The Incredible Bionic Man. Poses one scientist, “What happens when someone wants to cut off their legs for newer, better ones?” Yikes!
The documentary is fascinating on many levels, from the advancements being made in brain studies to the progress in prosthetics to the ethical questions posed by the scientific achievements.
Smithsonian Channel is bringing the Bionic Man to the U.S. to go on public display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington through the fall. After seeing the documentary, you’ll likely want to see the lifelike robot up close. And Smithsonian magazine has more on the future of the “bionic body,” along with several videos and photos if you’re interested in more information.