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Xenobots: The Beginning of AI Robot Replication

We have been experiencing a rise in technological advancement, which has been to our advantage, for the most part anyway. As with anything, these advancements have had their negative effects like issues on cybersecurity and fears on job security for humans.

This growing technophobia may increase as time passes and we continue to advance our tech further. The latest advancement brings to us a new kind of robot called Xenobots that can self-reproduce.

Image: Douglas Blackiston and Sam Kriegman / Wyss Institute

What they are

They are tiny robots sized less than a millimeter created by a team of scientists from the University of Vermont, Tufts University, and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. Once the team discovered a new form of biological reproduction, they implemented it into these AI robots and made the Xenobots.

The most interesting thing about the Xenobots is that they are C-shaped organisms. According to the team’s lead scientist Josh Bongard, they didn’t program the AI robots to take on this shape; instead, they shaped themselves. One other interesting thing is that they can work together, self-heal, and move in groups.

Image: Douglas Blackiston and Sam Kriegman / Wyss Institute

What the research says

Xenobots were created with the stem cells of an African clawed frog, scientifically known as Xenopus laevis, hence its name. According to scientists, their discovery can be profitable for the medical field. The C-shaped AI robots collect and compress loose stem cells together in quantities which can mature themselves into off-springs.

According to co-lead scientist Michael Levin, frogs have a particular way of living and reproducing. When it releases a stem cell from the rest of the embryo, it finds a new way of living according to its surroundings and reproduces. This new way of reproduction opened up the possibility for AI bots like Xenobots to exist.

While the prospect of robot replication is as exciting as it may sound, it can also be scary at the same time with the question of ethics just looming around. However, the team promises that the research will go towards regenerative medicine.

YouTube: Xenobots: Building the First-Ever Self-Replicating Living Robots

Photo credits: The feature image has been taken by Rod Long. All other images were taken by Douglas Blackiston and Sam Kriegman for Wyss Institute.

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Mahnoor Hashmi
Tech Journalist