Robot finger covered in living skin developed by University of Tokyo

The University of Tokyo was the location of a unique scientific breakthrough recently. A team led by Professor Shoji Takeuchi has successfully cover a robotic finger with living skin made by culturing human skin cells.

It promises to be a marked improvement over the silicon that androids nowadays tend to use. In addition to never quite overcoming uncanny valley, silicon rubber is said to have issues with repairs and sensors.

Skin is also just the first step in combining organic matter with machines, and opens the door for incorporating nerves and sensory organs such as olfactory receptors which can detect scents. Another important addition will be some form of blood vessels that can nourish the skin, because at the moment it can only survive outside the cell culture for about an hour.

The skin is about 1.5 millimeters thick, consists of epidermis and dermis layers, and connects to the metal frame by a series of mushroom shaped fasteners. Since the skin is made of living cells, it has the potential to heal itself with the addition of a collagen sheet to the wounded area.

While these developments may also help skin transplants in humans, a major benefit is the creation of three-dimensional models that can be used to accurately test pharmaceuticals and cosmetics on instead of animals. This skin can also be used to cover prosthetic limbs to make them look more realistic.

And leave it to online comments to come up with other entertaining uses for robots with lifelike flesh.

“Are you sure that’s a finger they made?”

“The University of Tokyo has ushered in a new era of adult toys.”

“The U.S. makes fighting robots, but Japan makes robots to keep you company at night.”

“Do you guys want a Terminator?! Because this is how Terminators are made.”

“In all seriousness, I think this is a great step in regenerative medicine.”

“That would be a really expensive sex toy if it became one.”

“At the pace we’re moving, sexbots may become a thing in my lifetime!”

“If they start adding blood and hair and all that, I wonder if it will start to stink too.”