Researchers have managed to create mobile living robots using enhanced stem cells extracted from a frog’s embryos.
The Xenobots measure 0.04 inches (1 millimeter) and can move freely, pick up small objects, and even heal themselves after inflicting an injury, according to the study.
Scientists repurposed the cells from the frog’s skin and assembled them into bodies designed by a supercomputer running evolutionary AI.
While these Xenobots will have uses way beyond the medical field, the researchers hope to use living robots for transporting medicines inside a patient’s body and learn more about cellular communication.
“These are novel living machines…They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism,” said researcher Joshua Bongard, a robotics expert from the University of Vermont.
How Scientists developed Xenobot’s
The part robot, part living thing, was created using the stem cells of an African clawed frog named Xenopus laevis. Researchers combined heart and skin cells, which helped Xenobots in locomotion and structure.
However, it wouldn’t have been possible without the designs created through evolutionary algorithms. The researchers used a supercomputer running the evolutionary algorithm and tested thousands of 3D designs to discover the most feasible structures for the Xenobots.
“Eventually, it was able to give us designs that actually were transferrable into real cells. This was a breakthrough.” study co-author Sam Kriegman told Live Science.
What could it lead to?
Just like it happens with discoveries involving intelligent robots, controversies, and questions around morality come running around.
“When we start to mess around with complex systems that we don’t understand, we’re going to get unintended consequences,” Michael Levin, a biophysicist, and co-author of the study said in a press statement.
Creating life, or one can say, “Playing God” using technology would undoubtedly bring up a few red flags. Nevertheless, Xenobots could lead to more discoveries and start an uncharted future.