How Much Would It Cost To Build A RoboCop?

Robots: they're an everyday part of our lives. They vacuum our rugs, they build our cars, and they amuse our children at birthday parties so we don't have to talk to them. But could a robot police our streets? The very notion seems absurd. And yet, that's just the question Orion Pictures chose to tackle with a film made in 1987. It tells the story of detective Alex Murphy, who's shot to bits, and put back together as some kind of "Robo...Police."

Oh, wait. "RoboCOP." It says here it's called "RoboCop." But since the movie, its sequels, TV series, and cartoon spin-offs didn't adequately address our question, MGM and Columbia Pictures made a new (crappier) RoboCop in 2014. But all this concern about Robotic Cops raises the important question: could we actually create a real-life RoboCop today? And how much would that cost?

Armed And Dangerous

To start, let's establish what we have to work with. After he's assaulted by the baddies, Alex Murphy is little more than a torso and a head—and even that has a bullet in it. Let's begin with the long arms of the law. A Scottish company called Touch Bionics has created a cybernetic hand called the i-limb ultra, which is as close to the real thing as we can get today—for a mere $100,000 per hand. But while i-limbs are great for those who need them, they're not quite strong enough for RoboCop, who can crush your bones with a simple handshake. Industrial robots, however, might offer the kind of super-strength RoboCop might need on the mean Detroit streets. One of those will cost about $150,000. Let's combine them and estimate each arm at a cost of $250,000, for a grand total of arms costing half a million bucks.

Getting A Leg Up

Now, it's good we've got his arms sorted. But he hasn't got any legs. There are various initiatives to create cybernetic legs for those who need them. From the University of Rhode Island to the Center for Bionic Medicine in Chicago, these projects have research grants totaling in the millions of dollars. But to build RoboCop, we need something that's ready for purchase right now. For that, we turn to BiOM Personal Bionics in Bedford, Massachusetts. The BiOM Ankle System is an advanced robotic prosthesis that simulates all the functions of an ankle made of flesh and blood—and all for the low-low price of $70,000 each. Of course, like the i-limb hands, the BiOM Ankle isn't ready for the rigors of RoboCoppery. Let's bring in our industrial robots and smoosh them together. For a pair of RoboCop legs, we need to shell out another $440,000.

Head Start

So he can walk, and he can punch, but there's more to RoboCop than just a strong set of cybernetic limbs. He's got to be able to use his brains. For that we turn to the BrainGate, a tiny computer chip that's implanted in the brain. When in place, the BrainGate chip gives people with limited or no mobility the ability to activate electronics like computer cursors or robotic arms with just the power of their thoughts. Though there isn't any pricing information available for BrainGate chips, the manufacturer, Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, estimates that they'll likely cost at least $25,000 each. With the BrainGate connecting our "cop" to his "robo," let's focus on the rest of his head.

Vision Of The Future

Who can give him the famous "RoboCop" vision that helps him interpret his surroundings and achieve maximum violence? The answer is simple: Google! Google's Driverless car is equipped with laser radar and complicated computer-vision equipment that allows it to make quick, snap-decisions based on its changing environment. The whole set-up costs Google $150,000. RoboCop can also record and playback video, communicate with HQ wirelessly, and navigate using GPS. So let's just cram a smartphone or whatever in there.

That's Armor-ay

To keep from damaging all these technological wonders, we need armor. Omni Consumer Products covered RoboCop with titanium-Kevlar composite. Meanwhile, 44 pounds of steel make up a full suit of armor. So using that same figure, let's use 44 pounds of aerospace-grade titanium. Then let's add 18 yards of ballistic-grade Kevlar, enough to cover a six-foot man. Combined, that's $2,492—a bullet proof bargain! On the other hand, RoboCop's gun is a modified Baretta 93R, a pricey and rare Italian gun that's no longer made. Add $90,000.

The Price Of Protection

Altogether, that's a grand total of $1,207,841 to gather the materials that might be needed to create a real-life RoboCop—though research, development, surgery, and labor would ratchet that figure up a bit more. If that sounds like a lot of money, don't worry. RoboCop's on the baby food diet. At 21 jars per day for 3,000 calories, that's just $21 to feed our cybernetic hero every 24 hours. Those are some delicious savings.