Rex: the First and Most Complete Bionic Man

Rex is an outcome and a breakthrough of the latest prosthetic and biomimicry technology that can imitate the abilities of human body and even surpasses them. With his many aspects Rex is an ordinary man except for the fact that he is a real world bionic man that can see, talk and communicate with people. Most importantly, as an android, Rex is the first bionic man and the most complete design from the labs.

Rex is designed by Darlow Smithson Productions (DSP) and the British television company of Touching the Void and Richard Hammond’s Engineering Connections, with the cooperation of the robotics experts of Shadow Robot Company which is a British firm specializing in anthropomorphic robotic hands and has recently created a robotic version of Stephen Fry, a cult television personality.

The parts used for the design were obtained from different sources in the mass market and medical technology researches, for instance, some of the artificial organs are the early prototypes. All of its organs and body parts were built in labs at 18 universities and Shadow Robot Company integrated the parts from high end manufacturers.

Swiss psychologist from Zurich University, Dr. Bertolt Meyer who uses a bionic hand with prosthetic technology was invited by DSP in order to be the model for Rex’s head in bionic form made out of silicone. The documentary of “How to Build a Bionic Man” is the result of that process and accordingly has the right amount uncanny valley quality.

Rex has brown eyes and behind his irises, there is a pair of retinal implants which enables him the outlook of gazing. He also wears glasses that can send optical signals to the artificial retina and the retina can transmit signals to the robot’s CPU brain. The signals are also used by a cochlear implant. The latest vision recognition algorithms were used in order to support Rex to locate, move to and grasp objects.

Rex has almost seven feet (almost 2 meters) height, advanced prosthetic i-Limbs and arms with 26 degrees of movement that is close to a human and they are self-teaching. The legs are a modified version of an exoskeleton designed by Rex Bionics of New Zealand and use a motor and spring system to imitate the movement of the human calf muscle and Achilles tendon and the robot can walk without any help. The legs are combined to iWalk Biom mechanical feet designed in Massachusetts as a by-product of the MIT Media Lab.

There are researches on implanted permanently, self-regulating, artificial internal organs such as kidney, pancreas directly contacted to homeostatic systems. Likewise, the Bionic Man has the same technology for his organs. Rex has a working heart battery powered and designed for use by patients awaiting heart transplants; lung system, artificial blood circulation through a network of pulsating modified-polymer veins, a bionic spleen cleaning the blood, an artificial pancreas to keep his blood sugar on the level and a trachea.

He has artificial intelligence to some extent, as well, thus if someone speaks to him he is listening to thanks to his cochlear implants and uses a voice synthesizer to answer. Even if he staggers while he is talking he can correct himself. Moreover, he is fascinated by Ralph Lauren and Eminem.

Rich Walker, the managing director of the robotics team Shadow noted that they were surprised how many of the parts of the body can be replaced. He said that there were some vital organs missing, like the stomach, but 60 to 70 per cent of a human has effectively been rebuilt, the independent reports.

Video Credit: Channel 4 News

This study is important for medical advancements and innovation since replacing almost all the body parts feasibly is a possibility in the future of humankind although the ultimate form of biomimicry technology still hasn’t been approved domestically by the Food and Drug Administration. Thanks to Rex, now it is believed that two-thirds of the human body can be replicated.  As an example of future prospects, the artificial kidney is expected to be in clinical trials in 2017.

The bionic man cost approximately a million dollar; that is why Rex is also known as the ‘Million-Dollar Man’. The Bionic Man can be seen at London’s Science Museum between 7 February and 11 March in the Who Am I? gallery. Although it was created for a British television program, he will be in America soon, as well. After exhibitions of Rex, he will be back in London and be disassembled by Shadow Robot Company in order to return the parts to the suppliers.