Self-healing robots with living human skin created in Tokyo

Sometimes, new scientific developments can make you feel a little bit sick. Case in point: a team of scientists have decided to make living human skin for robotics, skin that can actually sweat and heal.

Why have they given a robot living human skin?

Created by a team of scientists at the University of Tokyo, lab-grown living skin was attached to robotics in order to make the technology as realistic as possible. Designed to create lifelike robots that can seamlessly interact with humans, the entire situation feels like something out of The Terminator.

Published in science journal Matter, biohybrid engineer Shoji Takeuchi and other researchers revealed the experiment. The team explained that the technology targets the medical field and tries to make humans more comfortable around medical robots.

The living human skin was created by submerging robotic fingers in a chemical mix of collagen and dermal fibroblasts, human skin cells. After setting, the robotic digit is able to settle into a first layer of real skin.

After the first layer sets, liquid human keratinocyte cells are then poured on top. After a few weeks, this solution perfectly binds with the first layer to create multiple layers comparable to human skin.

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The finger can sweat and… heal?!

The robot finger can self-heal and sweat
In order to create a finger as lifelike as possible, the living robot casing is able to stretch just like real skin. Just like a human, the robotic finger’s skin is able to stretch as its joints move, creating the most lifelike robotic digit yet.

Furthermore, the robotic finger benefits from something else that humans have: self-healing. The team made a small incision on the robotic finger and covered it with a collagen bandage. After a week, it was healed.

However, while the living skin’s ability to easily heal is impressive, drastic measures are taken to keep it alive. After all, it can’t heal if it’s already dead.

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How to keep the skin alive

For just this one robotic finger to be kept alive, scientists had to make sure the skin could soak up much needed nutrients. Been use, the finger was kept in a bath of “sugar, amino acids and other ingredients”. Otherwise, the robot’s flesh would’ve perished.

If this technology was to be used in full humanoid robotics, thethe resources needed to keep it alive would be insanely expensive. As SN notes, to place this living flesh on a Terminator-like robot would require it to bathe every day in a bath of nutrients. Now, that’s far from Skynet’s perfect killing machine.

So, while robots with living skin is very weird, it’s not going to come back from the future to kill us before we give birth to the leader of the resistance. Or is he also a Terminator now? Dead? I forget. 

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