Researchers at the University of Tokyo, Japan, have developed a new method to produce robots mixing electronic components with organic ones.
The “biohybrid” was featured in Science Robotics magazine and simulates the appearance and movements of a human finger. During tests, it was already capable of simple things, like placing a ring in the indicated place and working together with another robot to handle a cube.
According to Shoji Takeuchi, coordinator of the project, the creation of such a robot will allow for the emergence of more agile prostheses, in addition to helping scientists during tests with drugs and toxins, eliminating the need for tests on animals.
To do this, they took a small portion of muscle cells grown in the laboratory from mice and placed them on beds of hydrogel, creating an environment for the cells to continue growing during a period of “gestation” until they became sufficiently developed.
This is how the Japanese scientists solved part of the problem that other researchers had been struggling with for years: the short lifespan of the organic part.
While American versions of a biohybrid barely lasted two days, the Japanese version survived for a full week. It’s still little, but researchers are already working on ways to improve this durability.
The focus now is on finding a natural lubricant that can lessen the impact of machine joint friction on organic tissue.
We’re still a long way from a Robocop, but we’ve never been closer. Below you can see a video of the sinister fingers in action: