Scientists create ugly Terminator-like robot with living skin

They claim bio-cybernetic organisms will become part of our lives.

Inspired by the 1984 film "The Terminator," a pair of researchers has successfully developed a living fungal skin, which covered a robotic endoskeleton.

Their objective was to create a biodegradable and versatile sensor for electronic devices, as traditional electronic sensors, typically composed of silicone, are often challenging to produce and have limitations in terms of detecting multiple factors simultaneously, they said in a study published in the ResearchSquare

Antoni Gandia from the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain, a co-author of the paper currently, drew inspiration from a specific scene in "The Terminator." In that scene, the skin is implanted on a robot, serving as an external yet data-reporting and self-repairing component.

Gandia and his colleague Andrew Adamatzky from the University of the West of England wanted to to demonstrate that similar capabilities are already achievable.

They two employed a fungus species known as Ganoderma sessile, capable of thriving in various environmental conditions. They coated a seven-inch, ugly "Terminator" model with agar to encourage fungal growth on its surface.

Remarkably, within just five days in an incubator, the fungus completely enveloped the figurine, exhibiting sensitivity to both light and touch. The researchers referred to this achievement as a "living, self-regenerating, and responsive Ganoderma sessile mycelium," transforming a "model cyborg figurine" into a "bio-cybernetic entity."

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This project serves as a proof of concept but also fuels optimism that the research will serve as a foundation for the development of living skins with practical applications, such as regulating building temperatures.

For now, Gandia and Andrew Adamatzky will jump onto a new phase in order to explore the boundaries of what mycelium, hoping to produce bio-cybernetic systems that can become an integral part of our everyday lives.

Earlier this year, Austrian researchers developed board circuits using mushrooms, eventually targeting to replace plastic in electronic devices.