Doc Will Magnus theorized that the then current science of artificial intelligence was flawed. He assumed that things were already intelligent and that "personality traits" might indicate the presence of certain metals in the human body. As a result of this approach, Magnus developed a microcomputer chip device he called a Responsometer. 
Placed inside a specified volume of pure metal, the Responsometer can animate the material, and develop an artificial brain capable of independent thought.
Doc Magnus used his invention to create a team of "living" robots that he dubbed the Metal Men. Each Responsometer reacted differently depending upon the type of metal it was merged with. As such, the Metal Men each developed abilities and personalities reflective of their mineral composition. A Responsometer records a robot's personality and memories, and can be downloaded from one robot to the next. Should one of the Metal Men ever be destroyed, Magnus needed only to download the robot's personality into a fresh Responsometer and implant it into a surrogate body.
A single Responsometer can animate metal and develop a conscience capable of independent thought. A Responsometer can also be programmed to determine a robot's abilities based upon its mineral composition.
- Although Will Magnus once refurbished a partially destroyed Robotman into a semblance of a "Metal Man", Cliff maintained his original living brain, and did not possess a Responsometer.
- The 1993 Metal Men (Volume 2) limited series revised the origin of the team, establishing that the personalities of the robots were actually derived from living people, thus negating the presence and functionality of the Responsometers. However, the 2006 maxi-series, 52 has since retconned the 1993 mini-series, attributing the incident to a mad delusion that took place within Will Magnus' mind.
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