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Biohybrid finger beckons self-healing ‘living skin’ for sex robots

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A new form of self-healing ‘living skin’ has been developed by Japanese researchers, who claimed that the material they worked on will help usher in a new era of robots made from both organic and artificial material.

The scientists, who presented their findings in the journal Matter, claimed that their work “will create a new paradigm for biohybrid robots”.

So far the researchers have only shown off their fake skin on a single robotic finger they created, but its success led them to predict that it will eventually be able to be used as a whole body covering for biohybrid robots.

The ‘living skin’ material is created from a solution of collagen and human dermal fibroblasts, the main cell type present in the connective tissue of skin. It was placed around a robotic finger, followed by a layer of human epidermal keratinocytes –‍ matter that makes up most of humans’ outer skin layers.

fake skin image
The Japanese researchers’ robot finger diagrams

The result was a realistic, flexible ‘skin’ that fitted snugly on the robotic digit, which could move via two joints.

The skin the scientists created was able to self-heal, similarly to human skin, when tested in laboratory conditions. In their report on their research the scientists said that “these findings show the potential of a paradigm shift from traditional robotics to the new scheme of biohybrid robotics that leverage the advantages of both living materials and artificial materials.”

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Currently most sex robots on the market have artificial skin made from silicone, or similar materials, with few being responsive to touch or damage (although there are developments to change that). None on the market are believed to be self-healing.

The Japanese researchers’ findings raised the prospect of infinitely more realistic skin on sex robots. Watching video footage of their robotic finger in action, it’s doesn’t’ take a huge mental leap to imagine which other robotic bodily appendages could benefit from a coating of the biohybrid material.

The scientists cautioned about getting excited about fully self-healing skin-wrapped humanoids being available too soon. They said that their positive results were achieved in highly-controlled lab conditions, whereas in the outside world their ‘fake skin’ would require some kind of water supply and a method of removing waste.

“This research is a major step toward biohybrid robots that have a combination of living materials and artificial materials,” the researchers said. “Biohybrid robots would exhibit superior sensory capabilities, highly efficient energy conversion, self-organization, and self-repair functions like living organisms, which have thus far been difficult to achieve for artificial materials alone.”

We’re tapping our fingers in anticipation.

Read next: 7th Love and Sex with Robots conference set for Nov 2022

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