Every now and then a story comes along that is so bizarre you just know it must be a hoax, but it’s so good that you’re happy just to enjoy it and not get too skeptical. This is one of those stories.
I Wayan Sumardana, a 31-year-old welder in a small village in Bali, claims that he has created a mind-controlled bionic arm/exoskeleton out of scrap parts, to assist him in carrying out his day-to-day duties after he woke up with a paralysed arm some six months ago
“At first, I thought it was a light stroke, but my doctor couldn’t explain what was happening. He said go to the shaman, but the shamans gave up too,” he said. “For two months I couldn’t work at all. I was stressed out. I had no money left. Then I got the idea to create this machine.”
Sumardana has become quite the local celebrity due to his invention, and attracted worldwide media, including BBC Indonesia correspondent Christine Franciska:
Mr Sumardana, who is also known as Sutawan, has never been to university but he went to a technical secondary school and says he has been obsessed with electrical engineering ever since he was a child. He works as a welder and also a repairman, fixing household electronics such as fans, televisions and refrigerators.
He says he made the “bionic arm” from scrap metals, a lithium battery, gear wheels, dynamo cables and other electronic components.
His workshop, where he lives with his wife and three sons, is full of junk, scrap metal in every corner, piles of plastic bottles, a worn-out sofa, and chickens running around.
When I arrived it was filled with journalists and curious villagers. Local government officials and policemen were also there, preparing for a visit from the governor of Bali.
…”It’s like a lie detector machine,” he tells me. “I send a signal from my brain and that message is captured by the machine and it makes my arm move.”
“It is simple and anyone could make it and I am not brilliant,” he adds.
Here’s some video from his workshop:
That might be enough to make it a great story, but the written story on the BBC website reveals an extra fact not covered in the video: when he puts on his bionic arm, he feels possessed by a spirit.
[W]hen his story takes a mystical turn it becomes clear that Mr Sumardana is not simply a man devoted to the pursuit of science and robotics.
He says that he becomes slightly possessed when he puts on the “bionic arm”.
“I am not myself,” he says.
His wife, Nengah Sudiartini adds to this saying that she believes spirits played a part in her husband’s problems.
“I saw this left arm was missing. But after about an hour, my son looked at my husband again and he said the arm was there. And yes, it was there, but before it wasn’t. After that, he couldn’t move it.”
“We went to the doctors, but they couldn’t explain what happened,” Ms Nengah said.
Augmentation technology and Spiritism mashed together…love it. Even if it turns out to be a load of bollocks.