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New ‘living skin’ advances humanoid robot technology

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Humanoid robots aren’t just science fiction anymore; in fact, they’re almost ready to enter the workforce. Amazon has been exploring replacing some of its warehouse staff with robots, and Elon Musk is also considering the potential of robotic helpers.

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The latest developments come from scientists at the University of Tokyo, who have created a type of skin from human cells. This pink, gooey material can stretch into what resembles an awkward smile.

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Researchers use a special gel loaded with skin-forming cells to sculpt a “living layer” that adheres to robotic surfaces, bringing biology into play when the robot smiles.

Researchers believe this technology could enhance our understanding of facial expressions and advance treatments for facial paralysis, as well as improve cosmetic and orthopedic surgeries. In the future, stroke patients and burn victims who have undergone major surgeries could benefit from more natural skin augmentations.

While it will take many more years of testing for this technology to become an everyday reality, researchers hope it will make robots in the workforce more approachable. Although the commercial viability of humanoid robots like Boston Dynamics‘ Atlas and Tesla’s Optimus remains limited, recent advancements are starting to bridge the gap to practical applications.

At Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting, CEO Elon Musk suggested that humanoid robots could significantly increase the company’s market value to $25 trillion in the future. He also predicted that by 2025, Tesla would have “a few thousand” Optimus robots operational in its factories.

Meanwhile, Boston Dynamics has been selling its robot dog, Spot, since 2019 and hopes to one day bring its humanoid “Atlas” robot to market.

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[Karah Rucker]

HUMANOID ROBOTS AREN’T JUST SCIENCE FICTION ANYMORE.IN FACT – THEY’RE ALMOST READY TO ENTER THE WORKFORCE.

AMAZON HAS BEEN TESTING OUT A REPLACEMENT FOR ITS WAREHOUSE EMPLOYEES.

AND EVEN ELON MUSK HAS BEEN TOYING WITH THE IDEA OF A ROBOTIC HELPER.

IT’S CLEAR WE’RE SEEING INNOVATIONS – EVEN IF SOME MAY MAKE YOUR SKIN CRAWL.

THE LATEST – COMING TO US FROM SCIENTISTS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TOKYO.

THEY’VE CREATED A TYPE OF SKIN FROM HUMAN CELLS – THE PINK, GOOEY MATERIAL STRETCHING TO FORM SOMETHING OF AN AWKWARD SMILE.

IT MIGHT BE UNSETTLING BUT IT’S ALSO A GLIMPSE AND WHERE THIS TECHNOLOGY COULD BE HEADED.

USING A SPECIAL GEL LOADED WITH SKIN-FORMING CELLS, RESEARCHERS WERE ABLE TO SCULPT A “LIVING LAYER” THAT ADHERES TO ROBOTIC SURFACES. AND WHEN IT SMILES, IT’S NOT JUST MECHANICS — IT’S BIOLOGY AT WORK.

RESEARCHERS BELIEVE THIS TECHNOLOGY COULD ENHANCE OUR UNDERSTANDING OF FACIAL EXPRESSIONS AND ADVANCE TREATMENTS FOR FACIAL PARALYSIS, WHILE ALSO IMPROVING COSMETIC AND ORTHOPEDIC SURGERIES.

IN THE FUTURE, STROKE PATIENTS AND BURN VICTIMS WHO HAVE UNDERGONE MAJOR SURGERIES COULD BENEFIT FROM MORE NATURAL SKIN AUGMENTATIONS.

WHILE IT WILL TAKE MANY MORE YEARS OF TESTING FOR THE TECHNOLOGY TO BECOME AN EVERYDAY REALITY – RESEARCHERS HOPE IT WILL HELP MAKE ROBOTS IN THE WORKFORCE – MORE APPROACHABLE.

WHILE THE COMMERCIAL VIABILITY OF HUMANOID ROBOTS LIKE BOSTON DYNAMICS’ ATLAS AND TESLA’S OPTIMUS REMAINS LIMITED — RECENT ADVANCEMENTS ARE STARTING TO BRIDGE THE GAP TO PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS.

AT TESLA’S ANNUAL SHAREHOLDER MEETING, CEO ELON MUSK PROPOSED THAT HUMANOID ROBOTS COULD SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE THE COMPANY’S MARKET VALUE TO 25 TRILLION DOLLARS IN THE FUTURE. HE ALSO PREDICTED THAT BY 2025, TESLA WOULD HAVE “A FEW THOUSAND” OPTIMUS ROBOTS OPERATIONAL IN ITS FACTORIES.

MEANWHILE, BOSTON DYNAMICS HAS BEEN SELLING ITS ROBOT DOG, SPOT SINCE 2019 – AND HOPES TO ONE DAY BRING ITS HUMANOID ‘ATLAS’ ROBOT TO MARKET.

MAYBE BEFORE ANY OF THESE ROBOTS GET THE ‘SKIN’ TREATMENT – THEY CONSIDER ADDING SOME EYELIDS.

I’M KARAH RUCKER

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