Nattō is an ancient, aggressively pungent Japanese dish made from fermented soybeans. Nearly 1,000 years after its accidental discovery by a traveling samurai, the bacteria required to produce this slimy cuisine is being manipulated by the mad scientists at the MIT Media Lab and turned into something entirely different: A synthetic bio-skin. Rather than manufacturing actuators, which convert energy into motion, and sensors, which are affected by physical stimuli, the team is actually growing them; those animate cells are then harvested and transformed into a responsive material that reacts to body heat and sweat. And this next-level material will have a second life out of the lab—New Balance is experimenting with turning the textile into sportswear.
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