The world’s first “living” robots show that they can “reproduce,” new research shows.
These “living robots,” known as xenobots, were created by scientists using stem cells from frogs. The machines are said to be less than a millimeter in size, small enough to travel inside the human body. They were referred to as “entirely new life-forms” by the University of Vermont, which conducted the research with Tufts University’s Allen Discovery Center.
Now, these life forms are making their own babies, CNN World reports. “I was astounded by it,” said Michael Levin, a professor of biology and director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University who is one of the leaders of the research.
“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.”
Stem cells are cells that have no specific function and can be developed into different types of cells. The xenobots were created by researchers scraping living stem cells from frog embryos and leaving them to incubate. Afterward, researchers cut and reshaped them into “body forms” that were designed by a supercomputer, CNN World reports via the University of Vermont.
The xenobots can perform a wide variety of functions, including walking, swimming, and working together in groups. They can even survive weeks without food.
Josh Bongard, leader of the study and computer science professor and robotics expert at the University of Vermont, broke down why xenobots are referred to as robots. “Most people think of robots as made of metals and ceramics but it’s not so much what a robot is made from but what it does, which is act on its own on behalf of people,” said Bongard. “In that way it’s a robot but it’s also clearly an organism made from genetically unmodified frog cell.”