Researchers have developed a technique to attach living human skin cells to a robotic framework, enabling robots to emote and communicate more realistically. This innovation could also benefit the cosmetics industry by replicating human skin features, such as wrinkles.

The skin is made from a cultured mix of human skin cells grown in a collagen scaffold, placed over a 3D-printed resin base. Unlike previous experiments, this skin includes “perforation-type anchors”— tiny V-shaped cavities filled with living tissue — that mimic the ligaments found in human skin. These anchors help keep the skin in place and provide strength and flexibility.

Michio Kawai of Harvard University, along with his colleagues, demonstrated this by attaching the skin to a small, smiling robotic face moved by rods connected to its base. The skin was also tested on a 3D human head shape, which could not move.

Kawai highlighted that as AI technology advances, the roles, and functions required of robot skin are evolving. Human-like skin can improve robot communication with people. Additionally, the ability to form expression wrinkles on the robotic face over a month-long period shows potential for testing cosmetics and skincare products aimed at managing wrinkle formation.

Despite its promise, the skin lacks certain functions and durability. Kawai noted that it does not have sensory capabilities or blood vessels to supply nutrients and moisture, limiting its survival in the air. Addressing these challenges involves integrating neural mechanisms and perfusion channels into the skin tissue.

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