Terminator soon a reality with this first “living” robot skin?

Skin that resembles human skin, and moreover living, is what researchers from the University of Tokyo have created. In a study published in the journal fabric, they present a robot finger covered with an organic skin that has features water repellent and healing. A progress that may seem smaller, but which brings us significantly closer real humanoids ! “I believe that living skin is the ultimate solution to make robots look and feel like living beings because they are exactly the same material which covers the body of the animals “said Shoji Takeuchi, first author of the study.

Genuine components of human skin

To get this structurethe researchers used a collection of living cells made in vitro and of collagen. A mix inspired by implants biological substances used in medicine to treat severe wounds and burns. They first immersed the robot finger in a mixture of fibroblasts human skin and collagen to reproduce what is equivalent dermisthen covered it all with keratinocytes human epidermis to create an epidermis.

It all then shrank over time solidificationwhich surrounds the finger and forms folds that resemble those of real skin. “The advantage of our method of covering 3D objects with what corresponds to skin is the use of tissue shrinkage during cultivation, which allows conformal coverage of 3D objects, especially those with curved and uneven surfaces.” write the researchers.

To check the outfit andelasticity of the skin had the team so more movements to robot fingerand have more “evaluated the barrier function of manufactured skin equivalents in vitro with electrical measurements and testing of Water accumulation », as the researchers write. And it all held up really well! ‘Fingers already’air slightly “wet” straight out of the growth mediumexcited S.Takeuchi. Since the finger is powered by an electric motor, it is also interesting to hear the click of the motor in harmony with a finger that looks like a real one. »

Healing properties

In addition to its aesthetic and mechanical properties, the brand new skin has created properties ofself-healing. The researchers placed a collagen bandage after having ” hurt ” the robot finger: the bandage gradually melted into the skin and thus rebuilt it! “The wound was repaired by dermal fibroblast activity after the collagen sheet was applied to the wound site. These results demonstrate the utility of robots covered with living materials for biological functions and offer a new perspective on robotic materials.”

But this is only the beginning, as the study concludes: developed skin remains weaker than natural skin and requires nutrient supply : for the future the team plans to add sensory neuronsof follicles hairy, nails and sweat glands. “We’re surprised at how good the drug is cut adapts to the surface of the robotsays Takeuchi. But this work is only the first step towards creating robots covered in living skin. »

The formed skin withstood all the tests! © Matter, Kawai and PCS.

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