The quest to create humanoids that appear and function more like humans has just taken a huge leap forward.
Scientists from the University of Tokyo have created a tissue-engineered skin that mimics the appearance and function of human skin, bringing the world one step closer to biohybrid robots.
A paper published Jun. 9 details the process and testing that led to synthetic skin that closely resembles and behaves like the skin found on human beings.
The skin not only looks like human skin, it possesses what researchers call a living skin model that consists of cells and extracellular mix that provide self-healing functions. This skin equivalent was conceptualized from grafted hydrogels used in medical treatment of patients with severe burns.
The research paper also mentions the potential benefit for human-humanoid interactions within the fields of medical care, nursing care, and the service industry.
“Such tasks for humanoids require a human-like appearance to improve the efficiency of information exchange with humans and to evoke likability,” the paper states.
“The finger looks slightly ‘sweaty’ straight out of the culture medium,” Shoji Takeuchi, the scientist who helped develop the skin and professor at the University of Tokyo, Japan, told technology blog Tech Xplore. “Since the finger is driven by an electric motor, it is also interesting to hear the clicking sounds of the motor in harmony with a finger that looks just like a real one.”
Water retention tests were also conducted and showed that the 3D-shaped skin equivalents serve as a barrier to water leakages.
“We are surprised by how well the skin tissue conforms to the robot’s surface,” he said. “But this work is just the first step toward creating robots covered with living skin.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article included a claim that the aforementioned technological advancements “could prove useful.” Since that assertion could be perceived as speculative and opinionated, it has been removed along with the paragraph in which it appeared.