Home Health The first living robots capable of reproducing themselves resemble Pac-Man

The first living robots capable of reproducing themselves resemble Pac-Man

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They are called Xenobot, they are made of living cells and are “a new class of artifacts: a living, programmable organism” as explained by Josh Bongard, the computer scientist and robotics expert at the University of Vermont (USA) who co-led with Michael Levin the research published in PNAS which in January 2020 presented their “living robots”.

One year later an extraordinary discovery, born from an experiment carried out “for fun”: these tiny robots – no more than a millimeter in size – were designed by artificial intelligence in order to be able to reproduce themselves. Their appearance, says Bongard, is now similar to that of Pac-Man, the protagonist of the eponymous (and hugely popular) video game.

The name Xenobot is inspired by that of an African frog – “xenopus laevis”, better known as smooth xenop – from which stem cells used for research come. Xenobots can walk or swim, survive for weeks without feeding, and organize themselves to work in groups. Scientist Bongard says, “They are not traditional robots or a new animal species. It is a new type of artifact: a programmable living organism.

Xenobots are, in short, “biological machines” that have characteristics that make them suitable for tasks in which robots made of plastic and metal would not succeed. The scholars who created them also argue that Xenobots are extremely more environmentally friendly, than traditional robots, and safer for humans. Although in reality their study was funded by DARPA, the US agency that deals with developing new technologies for military use.

edited by Pier Luigi Pisa

editing by Paolo Saracino

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