U.S. scientists behind the creation of the world’s first ‘living’ robots, have revealed they can reproduce themselves.
The living robots, produced from the stem cells of African frog embryos, are capable of reproducing themselves in a never-seen-before method unlike seen in plants and animals, according to a CNN report quoting scientists who called xenobots “the first-ever, self-replicating living robots.”
Xenobots, quite tiny in size – less than a millimetre were unveiled last year after a collaboration between the University of Vermont, Tufts University and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.
The robots can move, work together in groups and self-heal, the report stated.
Xenobots are created from the stem cells of the African clawed frog – scientifically known as Xenopus laevis – from where it derives the name. The scientists believe that the new discovery could serve fruitful in the medical field.
Michael Levin, a professor of biology and director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University, told CNN, “Frogs have a way of reproducing that they normally use but when you… liberate (the cells) from the rest of the embryo and you give them a chance to figure out how to be in a new environment, not only do they figure out a new way to move, but they also figure out apparently a new way to reproduce.”
“These things move around in the dish and make copies of themselves,” Josh Bongard of the University of Vermont, the lead author of the research, told The Guardian.
“These are very small, biodegradable and biocompatible machines, and they’re perfectly happy in freshwater,” he said, adding that near-term applications could include collecting microplastics from waterways.
Speaking to CNN, Bongard highlighted that people think robots are metal and ceramic “but it’s not so much what a robot is made from but what it does, which is acting on its own on behalf of people”.
Co-author Professor Michael Levin from Tufts University explains that the xenobots are not reproducing in normal biological ways.
“This is not replication at the cellular level. The cells are not what’s replicating here. This is the replication of the bot itself. So the xenobots are making other xenobots,” he said.