The birth of the first living robot: frog cell generation, supercomputer design


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Wen / Yu Yang XIII
Source: qubits report, public address No. QbitAI
The world’s first living robot made of cells has been born.
It’s not imagination, it’s not science fiction, it’s scientific research that is actually published in top journals.
Moreover, it is not made of metal or plastic, but recombined with frog epidermal cells and heart cells.
This is the latest amazing research published by PNAs, a top journal, from the University of Vermont and tufts team.
Joshua Bongard, the corresponding author of the paper, said:
They are neither traditional robots nor known animal species. It’s a living, programmable organism.
Co-author Michael Levin also said:
This is a new life form. They have never appeared on earth.
These robots, named xenobots.
According to the researchers, the characteristics of its action in water-based media show infinite possibilities in the future: cleaning up micro plastic pollution in the ocean, as a biodegradable drug delivery robot and so on.
But when it was displayed in front of the public, it immediately caused a lot of panic.
Yes, there’s something in the sci-fi movies alien and alien awakening. Netizens said: scared to death.
Foreign media “wired” uses four words to describe: creepy.
What’s the matter with living robots?
Xenobots: the first living robot
Xenobot, less than a millimeter long, is a combination of heart cells (contractile cells) and epidermal cells (passive cells) of the African claw frog.
The combination is based on a model designed by deep green, a supercomputer cluster at the University of Vermont.
The researchers performed an evolutionary algorithm on a cluster of 20000 laptops.
In the repeated experiments, the model design with poor performance is eliminated in the way similar to natural selection.
The code has been opened to the public. See the end of the article for the address
Both cells were derived from embryonic stem cells of Rana unguiculata.
The researchers first cut through the embryonic cells.
Cells were cut into two parts and cultured separately.
Then they will be rebuilt slowly.
Finally, according to the design simulated by supercomputer, the remolded cell is “carved” with tweezers and electrodes.
The reshaped cells have different shapes, some are wedge-shaped, some are arch shaped.
In the figure below, the green part at the top is passive cells, while the red and green parts at the bottom are active cells.
△ green is the epidermal cell, red is the heart cell
Xenobot can move in aqueous medium through contraction produced by cardiac cells.
△ adjusted to 8 times speed
It can not only travel in a straight line, but also rotate in circles.
Unlike robots made of metal and plastic, xenobot is completely biodegradable.
Moreover, it has the ability of self-healing.
The corresponding author of the paper, Joshua Bongard, introduces:
We cut the robot in half, so it can not only sew itself up, but also move on afterwards.
Interestingly, if you turn this robot over, it’s like a turtle turning over and facing down, and it will lose its mobility.
Computer + biology, cross-border cooperation
The study was led by Joshua Banga, a professor in the Department of computer science at the University of Vermont.
The first paper is Sam krigman. Ph.D. candidate, University of Vermont, devoted to the research of evolutionary robots.
△ Sam kriegman
Dr. Joshua Banga, the corresponding author, graduated from the University of Zurich. Now he is a professor in the Department of computer science of the University of Vermont and the head of the laboratory of morphological evolution and cognition. His research focuses on evolutionary robotics, evolutionary computing and physical simulation.
△ Josh Bongard
The work of assembling robots is mainly done by Michael Levin, Professor of Biology Department of Tufts University.
△ Michael Levin
Alien awakening?
According to the researchers, xenobot’s characteristics show its infinite possibilities in the future. They can be used to clean up micro plastic pollution in the ocean, locate and digest toxic substances, or enter human blood vessels, accurately deliver drugs, clear the plaque on the arterial wall, etc.
But perhaps such a “alien” robot will remind you of the sci-fi movie “alien awakening”: a single cell can destroy the sky and the earth.
Some netizens have said they were frightened:
Sam kriegman, the first author of the paper, admitted that this research has brought about new moral problems: the future variants of such robots may have neural system and cognitive ability.
I think it’s important that this research is open, that society can discuss it, and that policy makers can target the best course of action.
Another author of the paper, Michael Levin, a professor at Tufts University, also points out that this fear is not unreasonable. But he believes their job is to help people better understand such systems.
This study is a direct contribution to what people are worried about.
What do you think?
GitHub project:
Reference link: