Born from a frog and an artificial intelligence, these robots are able to generate new specimens: the Xenobots similar to Pacman are capable of reproducing themselves
When we think of Pacman, we are reminded of that little yellow creature with a triangular mouth that hunted for pellets while avoiding ghosts, in that historic video game that marked our childhood.
Now there is a new entity, which resembles Pacman in form but is actually a scientific and technological revolution: a living robot that can reproduce itself.
The living robots
They are called Xenobots, and are living robots. That is, they are artificial multicellular organisms, i.e., programmed to perform functions different from natural ones. They are semi-synthetic and biodegradable.
They were created by aggregating the skin cells of the African frog Xenopus into spheres just a few millimeters in size, created by an artificial intelligence.
They have been in existence for a few years now, and are able to move through space.
The ability to reproduce
Just as Pacman moved through space and ate the pellets he encountered along the way, Xenobots self-replicate by assembling the cells they encounter along the way to form new organisms.
The study was conducted by three U.S. universities-Harvard, University of Vermond and Tuft University-and was published in the journal of the American Academy of Sciences.
The university researchers placed the Xenobots on a plate, on which they also placed individual Xenopus frog cells, scattered across the surface. The little robots began moving thanks to their cilia, and when they encountered Xenopus cells they compacted them. Once attached to each other, these new cells gave rise to new organisms that could move, within five days.
The second step was to use artificial intelligence to design self-replicating arrays of Pacman in different configurations. These simulations were conducted to see if the tiny Xenobots could have any use: and indeed they do, because they can cluster around wires to seal them or to shut down circuits.
Some are thinking big, and imagining a future where huge masses of Xenobots can help us clean the oceans, repair a car, or heal from a wound. And this isn't the first time microrobots have been thought of to help us in the medical field.