A robotic finger with a human form: This is how living skin develops in 24 hours

at the University of Tokyo

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Japanese researchers have succeeded in creating human-like robotic skin. So far they’ve only covered a finger, but they plan to perfect the technology for use on humanoids and facilitate their social acceptance.

They make human-textured skin for robotsEl Mundo (Video) // Shoji Takeuchi (Photo)
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Giving robots a human look is one of the main objectives of the engineers who design them, and this week they achieved something they’ve been trying for a long time: wrapping them almost in human skin.

It should come as no surprise that the advance comes from a lab in Japan, the country in which humanoid robots are most widespread, already used to provide assistance to people who are sick or with reduced mobility, but some shops and companies Also present as receptionist.

Some robots have been coated in silicone to simulate skin and try to make them closerBut this material does not do the job of giving the face a natural look and imitating certain features like wrinkles.

Humanoids actually look like a person making it easier for us to interact with them and their social acceptance is still a realm of science fiction, although what this team of researchers presents in the specialty journal Case It’s a first step in that direction: they’ve managed to cover a robotic finger with skin, which is basically the same material as human skin.

According to these scientists, they have not only achieved a texture similar to a person’s skin, but have also achieved The material repels water and is able to repair itself.

As Shoji Takeuchi, a professor at the University of Tokyo and the study’s lead author, tells this paper, this skin takes 24 days to develop: “It takes a week for the cells to acquire, three days for the formation of the dermis and the epidermis.” 14 days to form”, summarizes the scientist whose team took two years to get it,

The process to make the skin was as follows: First, they immersed the robotic finger in a cylinder with a solution of collagen and human dermal fibroblasts, the two main components that make up the skin’s connective tissues. Takeuchi says the success of their experiment lies in the natural tendency of this mixture of collagen and fibroblasts to contract, allowing it to conform to the finger.

stolen finger
Robotic finger covered with cultured skinShoji Takeuchi

This layer serves as a uniform base that facilitates the correct adhesion of the next layer of cells, human keratinocytes, which are the most numerous cells present in the human epidermis. They make up 90% of the outermost layer of skin, which Takeuchi says gives the robot a texture similar to a person’s skin, while also acting as a moisture-retaining barrier.

slightly resistant skin

According to a Japanese researcher, his robotic finger appears a bit ‘sweaty’ when it is removed from the solution in which it has been grown. Not completely satisfied with the result yetBecause “it’s much weaker than natural skin, and it doesn’t survive long unless it’s constantly supplied with nutrients. We’re looking at establishing a vascular structure as the next challenge.” ,” says Takeuchi, who estimates that they will need another five years to develop a method that will allow them to create longer-lasting skin.

It aims to include other types of tissue and more sophisticated functional structures within the skin, such as sensory neurons, hair follicles, nails and sweat glands.

Regarding whether this skin can burn when exposed to solar radiation, he confirms that this is difficult to do at this stage of the investigation, but it can happen if they manage to form a more mature skin structure .

He does not yet dare to predict when they will be able to cover the entire body of a humanoid with this living, almost human skin: “We want to do this as soon as possible, but we still have a long way to go. basic research for this purpose has just begun.” ,

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