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Dude looks like a human: Scientists attach living skin on robot to make it smile

Scientists have discovered a way to attach living skin to the faces of robot in order to give them a realistic smile along with other facial features.
Last Updated : 28 June 2024, 15:46 IST

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With each passing day the line of demarcation between science and science fiction tends to get thinner and blurrier. Inventions often shown or maybe foretold by sci-fi films are now becoming a reality. Thus, the same can be said about Japan which has recently found a way to make robots more human.

In 1927, a German expressionist science-fiction film named Metropolis was released under the direction of Fritz Lang. Despite the film touching upon a variety of subjects, the introduction of a robot named Maria who bore striking resemblance to the human of the same name paved the way for a new era of science fiction films. Now, it appears that fiction is becoming reality—Japanese scientists may have just taken their first step in making a true humanoid.

Scientists have discovered a way to attach living skin to the face of a robot in order to give them a realistic smile along with other facial features, BBC reported.

The breakthrough came from copying tissue structures in people, according to the team at Tokyo University.

Though the facial features aren't perfect yet, scientists believe they have crossed the first hurdle in their quest to achieve a convincing looking humanoid which has self-healing skin that will not easily rip or tear.

The researchers made the artificial skin in a lab using living cells. Keeping in mind the characteristics and workings of the real organ, this artificial one is soft like real skin and can also heal itself.

Scientists said that the previous attempts to attach this proved to be quite difficult.

Earlier the team tried to use hooks and anchors to attach it but that resulted in damaging the 'skin' when the robot moved. In actual human beings,  the skin is tethered to underlying structures by ligaments. They are tiny ropes of flexible collagen and elastin.

In order to replicate this, the researchers drilled little holes into the robot. They then went on to apply a gel which contained collagen and then they applied an artificial skin on top.

Lead researcher Prof Shoji Takeuchi told BBC, "By mimicking human skin-ligament structures and by using specially made V-shaped perforations in solid materials, we found a way to bind skin to complex structures."

However, scientists this achievement is just the first step. A lot more testing and experimenting needs to be done to make this illusion into a reality.

The team's next challenge is creating human-like expressions by integrating sophisticated actuators, or muscles, inside the robot.

The study was published in Cell Reports Physical Science.

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Published 28 June 2024, 15:46 IST

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