Rex, the bionic man has arrived and is here to stay. At least for a month, stationed at the London Science Museum. Rex is a two-meter tall artificial human, constructed from the most sophisticated bionic and prosthetic technology its developers could get their hands on. Rex, which is short for Robotic EXoskeleton, was created for the British Channel 4 documentary “How to Build a Bionic Man”. The cost to built Rex was around $1 million. Rex will be exhibited from February 7th until March 11th in the Science Museum of London.
UK roboticists Richard Walker and Matthew Godden of Shadow Robot (London, UK) were responsible for assembling all the components into a humanoid robot. All the artificial limbs, organs and other parts were lent from eighteen companies and universities to create Rex. The skull of Rex’s head is modeled on Bertolt Meyer, a Swiss psychologist, who has a bionic hand himself and also is the presenter of the British Channel 4 News documentary on this project.
Prepare to be amazed, as some of the components of Rex are: a self teaching arm with 26 degrees of movement; glasses that send images to a microchip in the retina that sends the info to the computer brain; synthetic blood; artificial lungs, an artificial pancreas with insulin stored in gel which softens and liquefies in the presence of excess glucose; a self-regulating artificial kidney, made up of a silicon nanoscale filtration system; a man-made spleen, bladder, ear, trachea and arteries; cochlear implants; a speech generator; bionic ankles using a motor and spring system to mimic human calf muscle and Achilles tendon; and of course a battery powered heart.
Our automobiles have already gone hybrid. So when will we go hybrid ourselves? Will we stop at replacing bodily functions or will the future bring us enhanced bodily functions? And how appropriate will it be to ask these questions to Rex himself… Rex will be disassembled after he returns from DC to London after his time in the Smithsonian, but our guess is that he’ll be back.
Bionics (also known as biomimicry, biomimetics, bio-inspiration, biognosis, and close to bionical creativity engineering) is the application of biological methods and systems found in nature to the study and design of engineering systems and modern technology.
The word bionic was coined by Jack E. Steele in 1958, possibly originating from the technical term bion (pronounced bee-on) (from Ancient Greek: βίος), meaning ’unit of life’ and the suffix -ic, meaning ’like’ or ’in the manner of’, hence ’like life’. Some dictionaries, however, explain the word as being formed as a portmanteau from biology + electronics. It was popularized by the 1970s television series The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, which were based upon the novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin, which was influenced by Steele’s work, and feature humans given superhuman powers by electromechanical implants.
The transfer of technology between lifeforms and manufactures is, according to proponents of bionic technology, desirable because evolutionary pressure typically forces living organisms, including fauna and flora, to become highly optimized and efficient. A classical example is the development of dirt- and water-repellent paint (coating) from the observation that the surface of the lotus flower plant is practically unsticky for anything (the lotus effect).
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