Which is not good for watching The Empire Strikes Back. Inspired by Luke Skywalker’s robotic hand, scientists are developing artificial human skin to enhance the mechanical capabilities of robotic muscle tissue.
According to the scientists at the British University of Bristol, the new form of artificial skin mimics human skin much better than the existing flat, static skin models, which grow on rigid plastic membranes and can barely move. The researchers want to replace these membranes with something flexible, which simulates the muscles under real skin, as it were.
This project is about an interaction between the skin and the underlying robotic muscles. By using robotic muscle tissue, the natural movements of human skin are mapped, so that these properties can be incorporated as much as possible in the artificial, flexible skin. The skin with these properties should also improve the mechanical capacities of the robotic muscles.
The combination of artificial skin and robotic muscles, the researchers say, has the potential to revolutionize healthcare, especially in the field of skin grafts for patients with severe burns. According to the researchers, the skin model to be developed can be used to make better ‘replacement skin’ for skin grafts. This can make the transplants more successful, because the skin is less likely to tear or be shed.
However, it is not there yet. The researchers acknowledge that they are venturing into uncharted territory, as they say growing artificial skin on robotic muscles has never been done before. This poses a significant challenge. This three-year research project, which started in early March, will bring together biologists and robotics experts from the University of Bristol. The researchers haven’t said anything yet about the ultimate test case: how the skin will hold up when handling a lightsaber.