World’s first living robots can now reproduce, scientists say

Advertisement World’s first living robots can now reproduce, scientists say Human-robot relationship has always been controversial, but this one advances a common goal Share Shares Copy Link Copy From the Human Exploratory Vehicle to…

World’s first living robots can now reproduce, scientists say

Advertisement World’s first living robots can now reproduce, scientists say Human-robot relationship has always been controversial, but this one advances a common goal Share Shares Copy Link Copy

From the Human Exploratory Vehicle to Nick-T-Rex on Jurassic Park, robots have made movies look unreal. But scientists at Case Western Reserve University say the technology that went into those depictions is more than plausible: Robots can potentially reproduce.Now, researchers with the school’s Sackler School of Medicine in Cleveland have taken on the scale to say that a living robot can make good reproducible body parts for people. But it’s not easy.”You do not want something that’s a little removed from reality when it comes to body parts,” said Noam Degner, associate professor of biomedical engineering. “The living part of it is the hardest problem to solve.”Developing devices for humans to see through has long been a challenge, while basic insights into how people and organisms work have lagged behind machines.A team led by Degner spent a year creating a device that can remotely view its being in real time and carefully replicate body parts, built with titanium, ABS plastic and Kevlar. The team tried everything — from use of solar energy to freeze and drink out solution to rotaries, or tiny motors — and even turned out an acoustic and laser cutter. Now, though, a robot has a tiny arm that can manipulate tools and sensors inside an artificial environment that’s just 200 microns thick, the width of a strand of hair.Like humans, the arm knows its location, how to grip, bend, rotate and other special skills. The idea is to use these “particles” of information to instruct the robot how to work with tissue. The push is to use the organs as gadgets, as well as reinforce the idea that human-robot interaction is still a bit strange.”The robot already learns what it needs to do with parts of its body as it grows, and with the additional information you can push it to do more complex tasks,” Degner said. “And if you can teach it, maybe even improve its behavior, then the ability to function, to grow as an individual, could lead to a much more natural relationship with humans.”Degner envisions robots that wear themselves out with tasks, creating a self-perpetuating and even altruistic relationship between robot and human. “Robots may prove helpful in assisting in dangerous or destructive environments without having to have its handlers’ trust,” he said.The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, says it’s far from a sure thing.”Most of the body parts involve highly expensive ingredients, so just getting to a stage where this can be commercially manufactured by a car company would be a technical achievement, in itself,” said Jennifer Talbry, professor of biological engineering and of informatics at Case Western Reserve University, who was not involved in the study.Talbry said robots that can grow will still be unlikely to work with humans, as robots with sophisticated collaborative qualities will always remain key. Robotic companion syndrome (“Assisted Me” with friends) appears to be an example.Robots that mimic what they see with in-house eyes, such as visual-scanning recognition techniques, rely on stationary imaging.Next steps? Scientists want to use this to study certain immune processes in order to find treatments for inflammatory diseases, including cancer. It could also be used to study organs grown on animals, he said.Degner’s goal was also to “see how far we could go, what might be possible in the future. It’s to be a part of history.”

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