Reproduction was the only thing off the table and now robots can finally overthrow humans!
The xenobots are formed from the stem cells of the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis), thus the name. These robots are less than a millimeter (0.04 inches) wide. They were capable of forming groups and working together to self-heal the host. These robots were unveiled in 2020.
The xenobots are the first living robots in the world developed by US scientists. These bots began reproducing by themselves recently and the biggest surprise of all is that their reproduction pattern is nothing similar to that of animals or plants.
The scientists that developed them at the University of Vermont, Tufts University, and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering told that “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.”
“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 active on its own on behalf of people. In that way, it’s a robot but it’s also clearly an organism made from genetically unmodified frog cells,” said Josh Bongard, a computer science professor and robotics expert at the University of Vermont and lead author of the study.
Around 3000 cells that were capable of reproduction were used for the development of Xenobots but these cells needed special circumstances to reproduce and scientists were yet to figure it out.
The surprise came recently when the cells reproduced using a kinetic reproduction method without any intentional external stimulation. Kinetic reproduction is common at the molecular level but this was the first-ever time a whole organism created by humans was capable of reproducing under this method.
Scientists then went about to make the reproduction more efficient by altering the shape of these xenobots with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and the PAC- Man-shaped sphere turned out to be the most successful culture among the billions of shapes tried.
The research was partially funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a federal agency that oversees the development of technology for military use. Though they are a cause of concern, scientists have assured that these xenobots are highly degradable and would need constant external regulation by humans to maintain a sustainable population.