Here’s why we think the “Indonesian Iron Man” is fake

Posted:  January 20, 2016   By:    27 comments   


By now, I’m sure most of you have seen a video making its rounds on social media, and even 9gag, about a guy with a robotic arm that he built in a garage to help him overcome the limitations of his paralysed left hand. Sounds amazing right?

Yeah, we think this sounds too good to be true. Here’s why.

I Wayan Sutawan, affectionately referred to as Tawan, suffered a minor stroke six months ago which paralysed his left arm. Because he’s a mechanic of sorts, one can imagine that having a paralysed left hand can be quite a cumbersome thing. So, rather than sit around and whine about it, Tawan set to work and in two months created a robotic arm out of spare parts he had around his workshop.

He can control the robot arm via a headband around his forehead that picks up his brain signals and allows him to control the arm movement accordingly. Based on the video, not only can he lift objects and move his arm around, he can also pick up and hold on to rather delicate objects.

So why do we think this miraculous feat has more in common with the Boy Who Cried Wolf than it does with Iron Man?

1. A brainwave-controlled robotic arm

It doesn’t matter how dramatic you make that “pairing” scene where he concentrates really hard and his arm jerks to life like an old automobile, it just seems too implausible. From what we understand, a stroke attacks one’s brain and the resulting paralysis is because the cells that control that particular motor function are dead — which means the brain can’t tell that part of your body to move.

That means the body part — the muscles, the nerve cells, the tendons and ligaments — are perfectly functional, there is just nothing telling them to move. So, if it’s the brain that can’t issue the command, how then can his “brainwave detector” — that looks like a bunch of LEDs strapped around his head with duct tape — detect the brainwaves issued by a part of the brain that no longer functions?

Plus, even if that contraption around his head could pick up the brainwaves from dead/damaged braincells that can no longer issue commands via a human’s regular nervous system, where on earth did he store the processor needed to make sense of those brainwaves (or even identify the correct ones) and translate them into mechanical motor functions? How did he develop such sophisticated programming? What kind of supercomputing power is being used to digest all that data?

2. A lack of actuators to control finger movements


While the motors and the hydraulics for the upper segments of the arm could possibly pass off as motors to facilitate movement, the glove that controls Tawan’s finer finger movements don’t have any actuators at all. So how could this contraption allow him to make the finger movements necessary to pick up and grip the solder in the video?

Prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by the brain aren’t exactly new. Take a look at this article by The Guardian on a DARPA-funded research project for robotic arms that can feel. What the scientists at Johns Hopkins university Applied Physics Laboratory did was have the electrodes from the prosthetic hand inserted into his sensory and motor cortexes so that he could not only control the hand with thought, he could also feel and sense when his “fingers” were touched.

Once again, this is proof that in order for your brain to control a prosthetic arm, the necessary cortexes would have to be able to send a signal and function properly first. Another thing to note is that if a project led by the brilliant scientists of Johns Hopkins needed funding from a US military agency like DARPA to succeed, how on earth did Tawan manage to build one himself out of spare parts?

What is more likely is that the man simply has a weak arm that needs some motorised help to actually function properly. In fact, if you pay close attention to his left arm when he is inserting it into his mechanical contraption, you can see his wrist flick upwards before it enters the sleeve.

Everything about this story seems too sketchy to be true. The fact that a simple mechanic from a rural town could just one day up and build something so advanced from spare parts should have raised at least a few flags. Add “brainwave-controlled” to that description and you would have a beautiful script to a story designed for the big screen. You would have Iron Man actually. And Tony Stark doesn’t exist — no matter how hard Elon Musk tries.


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27 Comments for Here’s why we think the “Indonesian Iron Man” is fake


yup, i doubt about it too..
too good to be true..


I am willing to bet his arm is perfectly alright. nothing more than a scam, like those 'legless' beggars.


how could u not catching how he could have done all these with literally 'single-handed'?


bisa bikin gak?


    lol. typical dumbfuck.

      Arif Diamanta

      Yup. Typical "orang bego sok pintar". LoL..


    smart question


    want to be a nationalist even share the hoax? dumbfucks..


Sometimes, it is the media who reported the news inacurrately i.e they don't publish how weak tawan's hand as of now, it might be possible that he can't move the arms but fingers are still ok, or movement of his arms only 10% than before attacked by stroke, something like that.

I don't think the one created by tawan comparable to the one developed by US scientist. IMHO, the one created by tawan is very much simpler than that, let say, it is just a mechanical robot controlled via brainwave, the mechanical robot only have limited function to help his 'weak arm' to move, that's all. Technically, it can 'pull' his arms up, move forward a little, etc. Tawan used that functionality only to support his arms movement. So basically he don't use specific area of brain cell who responsible for arms movement, he just used his brain to order the machine to do simple movement (via other area of brain cell, not the one responsible to move arms) where the effect can be benefit for his left arms. That's all.

The fact that he used 'garbage' to build that mechanics is great, but thats not something which is 'too good to be true'. There are lot of hobbyist out there who knows electronics can do the same, so never think it is only people who are well funded with high level of knowledge can do great stuff.


    Yes sir you may have a point,but i decline to believe the brainwave can be tapped by just using that simple kind of electronics.more like showmanship rather than function


      Neuroengineer here. It is that simple. A few IR LEDs can be used to measure the ratio of oxygenated to deoxygenated hemoblobin, which suggests localized cell metabolism, and threfore neural activity. It basically checks how much IR light the blood in the scalp absorbs, which changes in predictable ways when the brain is active.


    it is too good to be true..LOL


    This is exactly what my thoughts were – you can train your brain to light up certain areas, which is pretty easy to detect from the surface of the skull. As long as he only had three or four actuators – like to work his elbow, and move his shoulder forward – then this is completely possible.

    People keep getting caught up on his hand, but his hand may still have some movement, and the glove helps strengthen it by keeping it in a useful position. Nobody said he build a bionic hand, it looks like he's just augmented mainly his elbow and a bit of shoulder.

Bill Peter

My left hand is also paralysed as a resuilt of a stroke (in 2002). I have done a lot of research into "cures" (including stem cells and "miracle" healing) and I do not believe this either.




media di indonesia memang kurang waras, suka share berita yang belum jelas kebenarannya.

jujur saya saja malu!!

Elvio Loo

it's a nice story but if he really was able to built that arm all by himself, he could be making more money than his grand sons could ever dream to spend. Instead, he created it to keep on soldering? something doesn't seem to fit the picture.


    If I built an invention so amazing it could potentially make me billions of dollars but I don't have the education and the knowhow of where to present such invention – like applying for a patent, or selling it to a company – I won't be making the billions of dollars I could be making. Also to note, he did state that he is still working on improvements in his arm, so he probably doesn't want to show off an incomplete invention.


maybe it good enough,and functional and usable .
he need to concentrate to get the signal from non working brainwave .
finally, he able to jerk off.. heh


it is true, he use lying detector, so he must think contrary to make this robotic arm active.


here is the link, you can translate it wit google translate…


So much asshole keyboard warrior. I cried when reading an article in kompasiana that describe all the motives behinda this story.
This guy is a true warrior and not looking for fame. It's the media that exaggerate and make the stort sound very hollywood movie.


So much asshole keyboard warrior. I cried when reading an article in kompasiana that describe all the motives behinda this story.

pabrik jagung

LOL @ all the dumb villagers that blindly believe this hoax


Too impossible for someone from Tiwan or Indonesia to actually know enough about electronic that he could have created this contraption? There is still so much we do not know about the brain and how it heals it's self to discredit this guy. Go get a life. He has one.

Sean M Osman

I think it is bogus too, but you guys go after the two points that were explained already. He has movement in three of his fingers. And he said his sensors pick up that he thinks about telling a story or something obviously not connected to the movement of his arm.

The reasons I think it is bogus is because he moves his arm at the shoulder without there being anything there, and that he took out the gear at his elbow and it still worked. What is it for then, to make it look more steampunk?