Here is a living human skin to cover humanoid robots

A robotic finger driven by an electric motor: here is the video illustration of the new method developed by Japanese researchers to make human skin. Published in the magazine matter, their study breaks new ground with the presentation of a skin tissue molding method that adapts to the shape of the robot.

Like a human finger, the biohybrid finger can curl and stretch. The robot’s epidermal tissue exhibits elasticity with every movement. This also has water-repellent barrier properties that retain moisture. ” The finger looks slightly “sweaty” straight out of the culture medium says first author Shoji Takeuchi, a professor at the University of Tokyo, Japan.

How is this biohybrid skin for robots made?

To achieve this truer-than-life skin, the researchers developed a solution, manufactured in vitro, with collagen and living cells, called “dermal fibroblasts”. These “ingredients” are two of the main components of human skin tissue. To these elements, they added epidermal keratinocyte cells to mimic the epidermis, the outermost layer of human skin. ” We get exactly the same material that covers the body of animals says researcher Shoji Takeuchi.

Finally, the solution solidifies around the robotic mechanism, adapting to its shape seamlessly. “The advantage of our method for covering 3D objects with an equivalent of a skin is tissue shrinkage during culture, which allows for conformal coverage of 3D objects, especially those with curved and uneven surfaces” explain the authors of the study.

This biohybrid skin is made up of collagen. It thus has, like human skin, self-healing capacities. If it is cut, for example, it is possible to place a collagen dressing on it, in order to regenerate the skin. And thus allow the resumption of movements.

Why make robots with human skin?

This is not the first time that scientists have managed to cover a robot with “living” skin. However, the latter are much more fragile. As a result, they do not persist the movements. In addition, they have a very short lifespan and require a lot of care to keep them alive. Thanks to the new method of these Japanese researchers, a new path is opening up. A further step towards robots that look more and more like humans.

What is the point of this innovation? The designers of humanoid robots hold as one of the main objectives to make them resemble humans as closely as possible. This would increase their sympathy and therefore their efficiency within the workstations for which they are designed. For example, in the healthcare or service industry sectors.

“I think living skin is the ultimate solution to make robots look and feel like living creatures” says researcher Shoji Takeuchi.

Subsequently, the team hopes to incorporate hair follicles, sweat glands, and even sensory neurons!

Originally published on 06/15/2022

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Here is a living human skin to cover humanoid robots

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