Oct. 15, 2013 at 9:13 AM ET
Assembled completely from prosthetic parts, he has blood pumping to his heart, bionic hands, artificial eyesight and an exoskeleton that allows him to walk.
Meet the bionic man, with 28 parts that are already in use in real humans combined together for the first time. He made an appearance on TODAY Tuesday with Dr. Bertolt Meyer, a German social psychologist at the University of Zurich and the host of an upcoming special about the project on the Smithsonian Channel (Oct. 20 at 9 p.m. ET). Meyer has a particular connection to the project because he has a bionic hand after being born without a left hand.
"We wanted to find out how much of the human body we can replace already today, so what if we got all the different spare parts that we already have today and put them together in one piece?'' Meyer told Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie.
Meyer had the bionic man take a few lurching steps using his specially designed exoskeleton, which Meyer described as "the wheelchair of the future." The bionic man contains more than a million sensors, 200 processors, 70 circuit boards, and 26 individual motors, but the one body part that cannot be replicated yet is a brain. He has a software program that enables him to have a conversation, although Meyer admitted the software is still limited.
"With the software that you use during the program, you can actually have a free conversation without pre-scripting it,'' Meyer said. "At least you’re supposed to have that."
TODAY viewers were alternately excited and unnerved at the glimpse of the future.
Meyer also demonstrated the technology of his own bionic hand, which was able to grip a cell phone and also rotate 360 degrees.
"It has come so far, this technology,'' he said. "I would have never imagined in my lifetime to have something like this. It shows that bionic limbs make you do things that natural limbs cannot do, raising all sorts of interesting questions."
The bionic man's face is also modeled off a 3-D scan of Meyer's face.
"Honestly, it still freaks me out,'' he said.
Some TODAY viewers felt like the bionic man resembles another familiar face.