‘The Incredible Bionic Man’ to Premiere October 20 on Smithsonian
via press release:
SMITHSONIAN CHANNEL™ CHRONICLES AMBITIOUS
PROJECT OF BUILDING
THE INCREDIBLE BIONIC MAN
BUILT ENTIRELY FROM BIONIC BODY PARTS AND
IMPLANTABLE SYNTHETIC ORGANS
1-HOUR DOCUMENTARY TO PREMIERE OCTOBER 20 at 9 PM ET/PT
Bionic Man To Go On Public Display At New York Comic Con and
Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in October
NEW YORK, October 3, 2013 — Smithsonian Channel is the exclusive U.S. television home to chronicle the behind-the-scenes story of the world’s first real Bionic Man – a 6-foot-tall robot built entirely from bionic body parts and implantable synthetic organs – complete with a functioning circulatory system. The result of billions of dollars of research and featuring components borrowed from some of the world’s leading laboratories, THE INCREDIBLE BIONIC MAN shows how far we’ve come in efforts to simulate the human body. A new one-hour documentary about the ambitious project premieres on Smithsonian Channel on Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Smithsonian Channel is bringing the Bionic Man to the United States to go on public display, unveiling it at New York Comic Con October 10-13 and subsequently at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. through the fall.
THE INCREDIBLE BIONIC MAN begins with a team of engineers led by Richard Walker and Matthew Godden from Shadow Robot Company, gathered in a London warehouse, surrounded by boxes and crates from around the world. Inside are 28 of the most advanced artificial body parts ever made. The engineers’ task — to put them together and create a Bionic Man that walks, talks, grasps, sees, hears and even thinks —has never been attempted before.
For their human model, they will use Dr. Bertolt Meyer, a social psychologist at the University of Zurich, who has a bionic hand himself. Dr. Meyer had previously spent a lifetime experimenting with hooks and plastic hands with limited functionality, and he was one of the first in Switzerland to receive a groundbreaking bionic prosthetic, complete with a motor in every finger and a fully rotating wrist. Now, while the engineers get to work, it will be Dr. Meyer’s task to travel the world meeting the scientists behind the latest biological and technological marvels.
Leading biomedical innovators have loaned the most sophisticated prosthetic parts available and currently used in medical science. Until now, no one has ever attempted to combine them into a single functioning creature. THE INCREDIBLE BIONIC MAN follows Walker and Godden building the complex robot, from programming the mechanical arm to grasp objects and programming the legs to walk across the room, to connecting the “brain,” allowing it to communicate verbally.
But the Bionic Man doesn’t just have a mechanical outer frame. It also features its own pumping heart and other critical organs in a circulatory system built by pioneering scientist Alex Seifalian, a professor of Nanotechnology and Regenerative Medicine at University College London. Seifalian and his team invented a ground-breaking polymer for building implantable organs of any shape, and have used it to create the world’s first fully functioning veins and arteries. Other artificial body parts featured in the Bionic Man include a heart from SynCardia Systems in Tucson, Ariz.; ankles and feet from BiOM in Bedford, Mass.; a lung from Haemair Ltd. in England; ears from Cochlear in Australia; a pancreas from De Montfort University in the UK; and a prototype kidney from the University of California, San Francisco.
All of the individual components of the Bionic Man represent decades of research and ingenious solutions to mirroring what happens in the human body. An example is the bio-spleen contributed by the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. While the human spleen removes germs from blood with the help of white blood cells, the artificial spleen does the job with magnetic beads covered in germ-binding proteins. Infected blood from the patient is channeled through the spleen-on-a-chip, where the magnetic beads grab hold of the germs, producing cleansed blood that is then returned to the body.
THE INCREDIBLE BIONIC MAN also showcases people who have benefited from these emerging technologies—like Hugh Herr, who as a teenager lost his legs after getting trapped in a blizzard. Today he’s Director of Biomechatronics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. The Bionic Man’s ankles are the same ones he designed and wears every day. “Technology has this extraordinary capacity to heal, to rehabilitate and even to extend human capability beyond what nature intended,” Herr says in the program.
The final Bionic Man contains more than a million sensors, two hundred processors, seventy circuit boards and twenty-six individual motors. It’s a walking, talking, grasping, seeing, blood-pumping symbol of what technology and medicine are capable of achieving, and how far science can go to replicate the human body.
THE INCREDIBLE BIONIC MAN is a Darlow Smithson production, directed and produced by Tom Coveney for Smithsonian Channel and Channel 4 in association with Endemol Worldwide Distribution and The Wellcome Trust. Executive Producers for Smithsonian Channel are Charles Poe and David Royle. Executive Producer for Darlow Smithson Productions is Julian Ware.
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