Scientists from Japan create smiling robot with face covered in ‘living’ skin

Robotics researchers at the University of Tokyo in Japan have discovered a new way to bind skin tissue to the robot’s mechanical skeleton

Scientists have taken robots to the next level and have created a smiling machine, covered in live skin.

The human-like smiley face has large, unmoving green eyes and appears to be covered in a plastic-like pink film but this is actually skin.

It is the work of researchers in Japan, who say they have discovered a new way to bind living skin tissue to a mechanical robotic surface.

The team was led by Professor Shoji Takeuchi, of the Institute of Industrial Science at the University of Tokyo.

Previously he used collagen, a fibrous protein in human skin, and human dermal fibroblasts - the main cell type in connective tissue to make up the pink skin.

Robots are often covered in a material made to resemble flesh, such as silicone which is attached via an adhesive or fastening.

However in the smiley-face's case the skin is blended.

The new method allows the skin to be adhered onto a surface "very nicely, so that it does not detach easily and forms a very good interface between the rigid and soft,” Yifan Wang, an assistant professor at the school of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, said.

Mr Wang’s work focuses on “soft robots” that mimic biological creatures.

For him, the most exciting implications of this research are around developments in the “sensing capability of robots".

“Our human skin has these very delicate, high-density sensors on the surface, which currently you can still not quite achieve using some synthetic materials,” Mr Wang told CNN.

“(But) if we use biological skin on those traditional robots, we can achieve a similar type of sensing of different features.”

Professor Takeuchi and his team hope to add more sensory functions in the next research phase “to make the skin more responsive to environmental stimuli,” he said.

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