Scientists make progress in the production of robots and create robotic fingers out of human skin

Scientists make progress in the production of robots and create robotic fingers out of human skin

We are used to seeing robots, cyborgs, and robots on movie screens, such as the character Ultron in the Marvel Universe, or in the game Detroit Become Human, where robots have the same appearance as humans, performing everyday functions to help us.

So far, we haven’t made something this complex, but progress is being made. A Japanese team has created a robotic finger covered with living skin derived from human skin cells. The process gives the fingers a human appearance, and the skin can even move with a familiar flexibility.

When touched, the skin also looks more human-like than the robotic skin made of silicone; it can also be repaired in case of cuts or tears.

Shoji Takeuchi, an engineer specializing in biohybrid systems at the University of Tokyo in Japan, said that while some robots with silicone skins looked human from a distance, closer inspection soon revealed that they were artificial. So he and his team turned to biohybrid robotics to solve the problem.

“We believe that the only way to achieve an appearance that could be mistaken for a human is to cover it with the same material as a human — living skin cells.”

Robotic fingers made from human skin

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Image: Shoji Takeuchi

To make the covering, Takeuchi and his colleagues designed a skin-tissue mixture and molded the material around the robot’s fingers. Skin application is done in two parts.

First, the team mixed collagen with human dermal fibroblasts, the two main components of the skin’s connective tissue. The fingers were then dipped in this solution, and after three days in an incubator, the artificial “dermis” adhered to the fingers as the tissue naturally contracted, forming a tight, strong covering around the fingers.

This initial covering serves as the basis for the application and shaping of a second covering, the “epidermis”, made from the same human cells that make up about 90% of our own skin. The second solution was poured on the fingers multiple times from various angles and left to sit for two weeks to produce the final product, details of which are published in the journal Matter.

The result is skin with a human texture. When cut or torn, it can still be treated with a collagen bandage, which gradually becomes part of the skin itself.

The future of robots and artificial life

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How much do we want robots to look like us? Image: Pixabay

Such creations and advancements not only spark curiosity, but also debate around a specific question: How intelligent and human-like do we want robots to be?

Reactions to this have varied. A Georgia Tech study found that most adult college students prefer robots that look more like robots, while older adults prefer robots that look more like humans.

The role of robots is also an interesting factor. For example, most subjects in the study preferred cleaning robots to have a machine-like appearance, while those that communicate with us and perform “smart” tasks (such as providing information) should have a more human-like appearance.

Neuroscience research has also investigated how humans feel about robots, finding that our empathy for robots, whether they are treated harshly or harshly, remains different from how we feel about other humans. That said, we see robots as inferior, so giving them a more human appearance may affect that perspective and relationship.

Maria Paola Paladino, who studies human attitudes to robots at the University of Trento in Italy, points to some interesting aspects, describing our relationship with robots similar to our species as paradoxical.

On the one hand, humans want robots that look “social” (interact with us and perform complex tasks) to look and act human-like enough to meet our emotional and interpersonal needs. On the other hand, “too humanistic” robots threaten our sense of who we are as human beings and what makes us different.

“If you have machines that are very similar to ours, you start blurring human identities and people feel threatened by that,” she said. “If they’re human like me, what does it mean to be human?”

Paladino believes that as humans experience more and more intelligent machines, our relationships and attitudes towards robots will continue to evolve, for better or worse. So the robots we create will shape our relationship with them. “What social psychology tells us is that humans

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