Don't worry! It might look like the skin is being pulled right off a person’s head—but this face is totally fake. It’s made of synthetic, or artificial, skin created by the Russian company Promobot. The business sells lifelike humanoid robots designed to interact with people in homes and businesses.
To make the skin, Promobot uses a 3-D printer—a device that builds up layers of material into solid objects—to print a detailed mold shaped like a human face. The mold is then filled with a liquid polymer, which is a substance that consists of long molecules made up of repeating units. Eventually, the polymer dries into floppy fake skin that is then peeled from the mold.
Promobot’s creations don’t just have realistic skin. Their plastic eyes also have tiny red blood vessels called capillaries painted on them, and they seem to glisten thanks to a clear plastic coating. The bots also have eyelashes and eyebrows made of synthetic hair.
A robot made to look like a real person might seem a bit creepy. But scientists say it’s easier for people to feel more comfortable around machines that look like themselves.
Humanoid robots might take on all sorts of roles in the future, says David Hanson, the chief executive of Hanson Robotics in Hong Kong. His company recently began selling humanoid robots designed to care for the sick or elderly. Someday, human-looking robots might even help you board planes or find items in stores—possibly without you even realizing you’re being assisted by a machine.