Robotic cells can reproduce, Harvard research finds

The Hollywood perceptualities of robots living amongst humans might be closer than we presume, as Harvard University’s latest research revealed that frog cell-based Xenobots – living robots – can self-reproduce.

The Ivy League institution, alongside Tufts University, and University of Vermont’s researchers, uncovered custom organisms that could gather “hundreds” of singular cells in their dishes to instinctively gather baby bots that develop in a matter of days only.

Given that the process is repetitive, scientists can make use of these reproductions to accumulate as many robots needed to deliver drugs, extract microplastics from rivers or even accomplish small-scale tasks.

But how does this replication technique occur?

The cells fulfill their first goal by naturally developing into tadpole skin. However, the computer-designed cell mix instead uses the “kinematic” replication. The kinematic formulas are a set of equations that rely on connecting five key variables: displacement, time interval, initial velocity, final velocity, and constant acceleration.

Noticeably, these variables are all motion-based, with the kinematic replication only seen with molecules. According to a study conducted by Sam Kriegman, no living animal or plant reproduce in such a manner, highlighting that these robotic cells have significantly shattered the acknowledged “rules” of biology.

Researchers openly expressed their awareness of how such a reproduction method is deemed a vital ethical and technical issue. The Universities’ research team’s main objective is to comprehend how the self-reproduction is happening and then develop a method to “control it, direct it, douse it, exaggerate it,” according to Joshua Bongard, the project’s co-leader.

Perfecting this scientific experience will require a securely controlled laboratory ecosystem, to reach the highest level of accuracy and reproductive growth. If succeeded, this could result in regenerative medicine – the process of regenerating human cells, tissues, or organs to restore or establish normal functions.