Hills Gets First Look At $1M Bionic Man
The auditorium of Half Hollow Hills High School East was overflowing with excitement Wednesday night while an audience of about 200 waited to meet “The Incredible Bionic Man.”
Students of all ages from about 20 districts gathered on Oct. 9 at the first high school in the country to be visited by the state-of-the-art robot.
Half Hollow Hills High School East was selected to host the robot because of the school’s robust robotics club and because of its central location on Long Island, according to Cablevision spokeswoman Kristen Banks.
Two makers of the robot, Shadow Box Managing Director Richard Walker and Social Psychologist Dr. Bertolt Meyer, traveled from the United Kingdom to present their creation.
The Incredible Bionic Man is made from $1 million worth of artificial limbs and organs that were donated from some of the world’s leading manufacturers and laboratories. The robot is meant to showcase all parts of the human body that can be replaced today, and all of the parts can be used in a living person.
“This also shows us that there are a lot of things we cannot replace, and those things make us human,” Meyer said.
The robot has a heart that can keep a human alive for up to a few months while waiting for a transplant. Some other artificial organs the robot has are lungs, a pancreas, a kidney, a cochlear and a windpipe.
When the pair asked the crowd what body parts they did not see on the robot, “stomach”, “liver” and “bladder” were some of the accurate responses children gave.
Meyer and Walker used a remote control to make the bionic man speak. The robot greeted the audience, “Greetings ladies and gentlemen.”
Meyer explained that although the robot can talk, it doesn’t always make sense.
“The… ‘artificial intelligence’ is not very intelligent,” he said.
Meyer and Walker told listeners that technology is advancing rapidly and now is the time to get involved in subjects like science, technology and engineering.
“We’re hoping to inspire some people and show them that science, technology, and engineering is full of weird and interesting stuff and it’s worth looking at,” Walker said before the presentation.
During the demonstration, Meyer shared a personal connection to the robot.
“You see, I was born without the lower half of my left arm,” he said as he revealed his own prosthetic limb to the audience.
He explained how his bionic hand could be hacked after a clever question from a child in the audience. Meyer has an application on his iPhone that can act as a remote control to his hand and wrist, and if someone were to hack into his phone and get access to that app, this person could theoretically control his hand.
Meyer shares another connection to the robot: they have the same face. The robot’s face, made of silicone, was modeled after Meyer’s face, and the two are startlingly similar.
The bionic man, in many senses of the word, is incredible. He has “plastic blood,” he can see with the use of an Argus II system, and he can walk via remote control.
“That was the moment it became a body for the first time,” Meyer said about seeing the robot walk.
The event was sponsored by Cablevision’s education initiative Power to Learn, Smithsonian Channel, and School-Business Partnerships of Long Island (SBPLI).
Senator Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) was happy to be a part of the presentation.
“As a former science teacher in the New York City school system, I am so pleased that we can have a program of this quality from the Smithsonian come here and show these youngsters what can happen if they just let their imaginations go,” he said.
A documentary on “The Incredible Bionic Man” will air Oct. 20 at 9 p.m. on the Smithsonian Channel and shows the six-week process of the scientists and engineers assembling the robot.
According to Walker, the pair showed the robot at Comic Con in New York City this past weekend, before heading back to the U.K.