World's first living robots can now reproduce, say scientists

The astounding discovery comes a year after the self-healing robots were created



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By Web Desk

Published: Fri 3 Dec 2021, 11:44 AM

Early last year, US scientists created the world's first living robots. They were programmed to move and self-heal, but now, they've also found a way to reproduce.

The scientists who created the robots, known as xenobots, said they have a distinct way of reproducing, in a way that is not seen in plants and animals.

"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," Josh Bongard, a computer science professor and robotics expert at the University of Vermont and lead author of the study, told CNN.

"In that way it's a robot, but it's also clearly an organism made from genetically unmodified frog cell."

The tiny blobs use 'kinetic replication' to reproduce, a process that is known to occur at the molecular level, Bongard said in the interview with CNN.

With the help of artificial intelligence (AI), the scientists helped the xenobots become more effective at the replication. Experiments showed that the bots could swim out into a Petri dish, gather hundreds of single cells in their mouths and produce new "baby" xenobots.

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After a few days, the babies were capable of moving and acting just like the original xenobots. These new bots can also reproduce again, the scientists said.

Though the self-replication process could spark concern, the researchers said the bots were contained entirely in a lab and could be easily extinguished, as they are biodegradable and regulated by ethics experts.

Moreover, the discovery about the bots' ability to reproduce could be revolutionary for studying regenerative medicine.

"There are many things that are possible if we take advantage of this kind of plasticity and ability of cells to solve problems," Bongard said.


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