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Scientists use supercomputer to create ‘first living robot’

Scientists at the University of Vermont and Tufts University have created what they claim is the world’s first living robot. (See video below.)

The scientists say they have repurposed living cells, taken from frog embryos, and assembled them into “entirely new life-forms”.

The millimeter-wide “xenobots” can move toward a target, perhaps pick up a payload – like a medicine that needs to be carried to a specific place inside a patient – and heal themselves after being cut.

Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist and robotics expert at the University of Vermont who co-led the new research, says: “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.”

The new creatures were designed on a supercomputer at UVM – and then assembled and tested by biologists at Tufts University.

Co-leader Michael Levin, who directs the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology at Tufts, says: “We can imagine many useful applications of these living robots that other machines can’t do, like searching out nasty compounds or radioactive contamination, gathering microplastic in the oceans, traveling in arteries to scrape out plaque.”

The results of the new research were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The full article about the project is published here.

Main picture: On the left, the anatomical blueprint for a computer-designed organism, discovered on a UVM supercomputer. On the right, the living organism, built entirely from frog skin (green) and heart muscle (red) cells. The background displays traces carved by a swarm of these new-to-nature organisms as they move through a field of particulate matter. (Credit: Sam Kriegman, UVM)

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