Scientists test how to put ‘living skin’ on robot faces, with nightmarish results

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if a robot ripped your face off, carefully smoothed it over its unfeeling exoskeleton, and then looked at you with a creepy smile that makes you wonder how humanity got so far away from everything which is. well and no? Well, you don’t need to wonder anymore!

In a recently published study, scientists at the University of Tokyo teamed up to figure out how to attach living skin tissue made from biological cells to the face of a humanoid robot. Their goal is to pave the way for a future in which robots can be covered in self-healing synthetic skin that could allow them to feel and generally make them look more realistic.

“During previous research on a finger-shaped robot covered in artificial skin tissue that we developed in our laboratory, I felt the need for better adhesion between the robot’s features and the subcutaneous structure of the skin ” said Professor ShojiTakeuchi of the University of Tokyo. who led the new study published in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science.

Scientists test how to put ‘living skin’ on robot faces, with nightmarish results
Image credit: ©2024 Takeuchi et al. CC-BY-ND

Previous attempts to attach synthetic skin to surfaces relied on hooks or anchors to adhere the material to a robot’s face. For the new study, the researchers took a different approach, choosing instead to make tiny V-shaped perforations in the faceplate material to which skin could be attached using a collagen gel to using a process known as “plasma treatment”.

To test their approach, the team glued “living skin” to the face of a 3D humanoid robot and onto a flattened version with moving parts, which could be manipulated to make the face “smile”, without tearing or tearing. detach from the underlying structure. . Both faces were, unfortunately, completely nightmarish to behold, bordering on cursed – an aesthetic that wasn’t helped by the glassy, ​​lifeless eyes that stared from the experimental faces.

“In this study, we managed to reproduce human appearance to a certain extent by creating a face with the same surface material and structure as humans,” Takeuchi said. Scientists believe it might be possible to create a more realistic form of synthetic skin by including structural elements like pores, glands, fat and even nerves.

“Of course, movement is also a crucial factor, not just material. So another important challenge is creating human expressions by integrating sophisticated actuators or muscles inside the robot,” explained Takeuchi. “Creating robots that can heal themselves, sense their surroundings more accurately, and perform tasks with human-like dexterity is incredibly motivating.”

The researchers also hope that their research can one day be used in multiple areas of research and could help test surgical procedures, plastic surgery, cosmetics, and more. For more robot news, why not learn about the all-electric and extraordinarily flexible Atlas robot from Boston Dynamics, which was revealed earlier this year, or check out the flamethrower-equipped robot dog known as the name Thermonator, which, fortunately, has not yet been equipped with “living skin”.

Anthony is a freelance contributor who covers science and video games news for IGN. He has over eight years of experience covering cutting-edge developments in several scientific fields and has absolutely no time for your shenanigans. Follow him on Twitter @BeardConGamer

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