Japanese scientists have developed a creepy looking child robot that can experience pain. While this might probably seem like a cruel feature to give to a robot, researchers believe this experiment could allow robots to understand and empathize with their human companions.

How can robots sense pain?

A team of scientists from Osaka University in Japan designed artificial skin equipped with several sensors that are capable of detecting things like changes in pressure, a light touch or a hard hit. Dubbed as an artificial "pain nervous system," the life-like android robot child was then made to wear the skin tech, giving it the ability to react to the sensations using a variety of facial expressions.

Affetto
Hisashi Ishihara / YouTube

The team, led by Minoru Asada, presented their work on Feb. 15 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle. The child robot, named Affetto, first made its debut in 2011. However, at the time, it was nothing more than a robot head capable of displaying a wide range of facial expressions, such as smiling and frowning, which was made possible using soft skin-like material that can move using 116 different facial points.

Thanks to this latest project, Affetto now has a full body, complete with an artificial skin-covered skeleton with the new tactile sensors.

Hisashi Ishihara / YouTube

Objective

The main aim of the research is to develop more realistic "social" robots that can interact with humans on a deeper level. Although it sounds like it might be years before any of this tech is actually of any use to us, Japan has already started employing robots in nursing homes, offices, and schools in a bid to cope with its aging population and shrinking workforce.

Select states in the United States such as California have also started experimenting with robot cops to patrol its streets and have also started using self-driving robots to deliver food items in restaurants, serve in casinos, and help out at nursing homes, as previously reported.

The theory behind it is that these robots will be able to communicate with humans more realistically and give the impression that they are also capable of experiencing pain just like us.