WTF?! Japanese scientists, who have apparently never seen any of the Terminator movies, have found a way to wrap living skin around a robot’s finger to make it look frighteningly real and “slightly sweaty.” The move, they say, brings humanity one step closer to humanoid robots. which certainly won’t wipe us all out.
The University of Tokyo team published an article about the project in Matter magazine. This explains how the robotic finger was first immersed in a cylinder filled with a solution of collagen and human dermal fibroblasts found in the connective tissue of the skin. This provides a layer to which human epidermal keratinocytes, the primary cell type of the epidermis, adhere, which also produces keratin, which binds skin cells together, making the epidermis a waterproof barrier.
In addition to the fact that the skin looks and feels eerily similar to a human finger, scientists have found that the skin can even heal after being cut, though it does require help with a collagen sheet-like patch.
“The finger looks slightly sweaty right out of the culture medium,” said University of Tokyo professor Shoji Takeuchi. “Because the finger is driven by an electric motor, it’s also interesting to hear the clicking sounds of the motor in harmony with the finger, which looks just like the real thing.”
There is still a lot to be done before skin can accurately mimic human skin. It is not as durable as human skin, and the lack of a circulatory system to provide water and nutrients means it must be kept moist. The team hopes to solve this problem by adding channels under the dermis that do the same job as blood vessels. Artificial sweat glands, sensory neurons, hair follicles and nails will also be future additions that will increase realism.
You might be wondering why we have to create such humanoid robots that create the effect of an uncanny valley and fear the uprising of machines. But as Takeuchi explains, “I think living skin is the perfect solution to give robots the look and feel of living beings, as it is the exact same material that covers the bodies of animals.” He said it would help “build a new relationship between humans and robots.”
The scientists are also working on a skin-covered robot face that will hopefully not speak with a thick Austrian accent.
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