The devices can reproduce new lives and build their own, but their batteries and microprocessors have to be improved
World’s first living robots can now reproduce, scientists say
The scientists working on the world’s first living robots have announced new advances in their technology, as part of their campaign to explore humanity’s potential relationships with robots.
The Swiss-based research team have created a type of animal – known as a “mini-me” – which has a nearly flexible body made of polymer resin, or PET.
Petri Keldré, one of the researchers from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), described his work.
“We used eWaste – old clothes discarded by consumers and also clothing produced by other industries – which helped us develop a copy of our own creature,” Keldré said.
“The end result is something that has just the right shape and structure to be a living organism.”
As part of their campaign, the scientists said they are exploring “real” relations between humans and bots, exploring how this type of relationship should be made as smart as possible.
They expect that, in the future, robots will be designed by humans with memories as well as capabilities, a “telepresence bot”, and a robot named Mimirati, which is designed to watch the child it is meant to care for.
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The petro-elite at EPFL used 27 different kinds of animal, from insects to crustaceans, and two kinds of amphibians, to craft the latest life model.
For the living robot, the team created a moulting process which uses, to increase its life span, neurons that are combined in a cell shape to form a kind of circuitry, and a high-grade “textured” PET coating which reflects light to emulate a human skin.
The team also fitted it with a small battery, infrared sensors, cellular components, and a little artificial brain – which is being created by using sets of artificial neuron network connections to make the models resemble a fully functioning human brain.
“The large amount of brain activity makes Mimirati quite responsive, and makes life more like a real living organism,” said Tim Osborne, a professor of robotics at Warwick university.
“And the robot’s swimming sensations are very sophisticated, so it feels like it actually swims, even though it’s just a plastic model.”
Osborne said the test set of “fake” creatures would not last long, as humans will eventually learn to detect the artificial nature of the creatures.
“As soon as humans can begin to reproduce their own creatures, having a live robot present with them will become something we expect from our friends, even if that friend is likely to have been developed by robots rather than a person,” Osborne said.
He said this would be very good for bringing people and robots closer to being friends, as their code of ethics would reflect their “sense of shared responsibility to each other”.