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Living robots can now reproduce thanks to artificial intelligence

Life finds a way, and so do robots, according to a group of scientists who claim the first living robotic life forms can reproduce.

In January 2020, a team of scientists from the University of Vermont, Tufts University and Harvard University took stem cells from African clawed frogs and turned them into tiny living creatures called xenobots. . The xenobots, which are less than 0.04 inches wide, were able to move around on their own, communicate with each other, and heal from an injury, making them the very first living robots.

But more than a year later, the computer-designed creatures began to do “something that has never been observed before.”

What the team of scientists found was that the xenobots would move around their environment and find individual cells. They would collect hundreds of these cells at a time, then assemble offspring in their mouths. A few days later, the offspring became a new xenobot that functioned like the others. The group published its findings in the peer-reviewed journal PNAS on Monday.

“It’s deep,” Michael Levin, director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University and co-head of new research, said in a press release. “These cells have the genome of a frog, but, freed from becoming tadpoles, they use their collective intelligence, a plasticity, to do something amazing.”

Sam Kriegman, a postdoctoral researcher at Tufts and Harvard and lead author of the study, said that what makes the discovery so remarkable are the xenobots reproduced in a way that most animals wouldn’t.

When the scientists created the xenobots, they took away all the characteristics of the frogs, which means that they cannot reproduce by creating tadpoles. The robots’ original design failed to replicate, so the group used artificial intelligence to help decide what would be the best design to replicate.

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