It’s a new day and you know what that means: It’s time to look at another leap forward in robotics technology that tempers our hopefulness for human improvement with the horrible knowledge that we’ll one day live in thrall to an even colder, literally heartless class of dispassionate anthropomorphic rulers. This time, we’ve learned about something called AiFoam, which is basically fake robot skin that is capable of both sensing the world through touch and has the ability to heal itself of injuries.
Vice reports that AiFoam or “e-skin,” created by researchers from the National University Of Singapore, is “a world-first smart foam technology that could function as the equivalent of human skin for robots.” The material uses “microscopic metal particles and tiny electrodes that are embedded into the foam” in order to feel what it touches, something that would just be straightforwardly cool if it wasn’t for the fact that the e-skin is also capable of healing itself when damaged.
After noting how “eerily dystopian” the idea of a real-life self-repairing fleshbot may seem, lead researcher Benjamin Tee told Vice that he was actually “inspired by Star Wars technology, where robots can perform surgery and prosthetic hands have skins.” (No comment is given on whether he was inspired, too, by the creepy bald robot guy who hangs out with Lando and listens to Han Solo screaming in agony without blinking an eye.)
This last point at least highlights the hopeful note of this whole e-skin development. Tee says that the goal is to “put [AiFoam] to practical use within five years” in fields like “smart prosthetic devices that will give users better control of their artificial limbs.” Let’s just try to concentrate on that optimistic possibility rather than the image of an unrelenting army of fleshy robots shrugging off machine gun blasts to their self-healing chests as they conquer our frail human cities and install themselves as the planet’s new rulers.
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