全世界首个活体机器人诞生 可编程可自愈有生命!-看世界

全世界首个活体机器人诞生 可编程可自愈有生命!

全世界首个活体机器人诞生,可编程可自愈有生命!北京时间1月14日凌晨,全球顶级期刊《美国科学院院报》(PNAS)发表了一项最新重磅研究:美国科学家利用从青蛙胚胎中提取的活细胞,创造出了第一个毫米级“活体可编程机器人”(以下称为“活体机器人”,英文为 Xenobots)。

The world's first living robot was born, programmable self-healing and living! In the early morning of January 14, Beijing time, the world's top journal PNAs published a new heavyweight study: American scientists created the first millimeter level "living programmable robot" (hereinafter referred to as "living robot") by using living cells extracted from frog embryos Xenobots).

简单来说,“活体机器人”是一种由 100% 青蛙细胞所创造出的新生命个体——非金属非机械结构、非单细胞生物体,是一种新的活体可编程生物。

In short, "living robot" is a kind of new living individual created by 100% frog cells - Non-metallic non mechanical structure, non single cell organism, which is a new living programmable organism.


The robot has two short legs and can move towards the target by its own power. Most importantly, because they are "living robots", they can reproduce and repair themselves even if they are damaged or torn.

本项研究由佛蒙特大学(UVM)计算机科学系教授约书亚·邦加(Joshua Bongard)的团队主导,在 UVM 的超级计算机上设计,然后再由美国塔夫茨大学的生物学家组装和测试,是一次跨“计算机+生物”领域的完美合作。

This research is led by the team of Joshua Bongard, a professor of computer science at the University of Vermont. It is designed on the supercomputer of UVM, and then assembled and tested by biologists at Tufts University. It is a perfect cooperation in the field of "computer + biology".

约书亚·邦加(Joshua Bongard)

Joshua Bongard

本篇论文的共同作者,塔夫茨大学再生与发育生物学中心的负责人迈克尔·莱文(Michael Levin)认为,从基因组织上来看,Xenobots 活体机器人的本质是青蛙——它 100% 由青蛙的 DNA 组成,但是,它们却不是青蛙,而是机器人。

Michael Levin, co-author of this paper and head of the center for regeneration and developmental biology at Tufts University, believes that from the perspective of gene organization, the essence of xenobots is a frog - it is 100% composed of frog DNA, but they are not frogs, but robots.

迈克尔·莱文(Michael Levin)

Michael Levin


Michael Levin said, "building a living robot is a small step for humans to break the" morphological code ". Heterogeneous robots provide us with more in-depth understanding of the overall organization of biological samples to help us understand how they (frog cells) calculate and store information according to their (morphological code field) history and environment. "

美国科技网站 Wired 则形容该研究称:“(它们是)一种令人毛骨悚然的新型可编程生物”。

Wired, the US technology website, described the study as "a creepy new type of programmable creature.".

如果说,过去五十年,机器人行业是从无到有的话,今天 PNAS 发表的这项研究则意味着:活体机器人不再是设想与科幻,它们将在未来成为现实。而且,在人类的指导下,未来活体机器人或许能在某种意义上,像真实的生物一样适应环境。

If the robot industry has grown from scratch in the past 50 years, the research published by PNAs today means that living robots are no longer imagination and science fiction, but will become reality in the future. Moreover, under the guidance of human beings, living robots may be able to adapt to the environment in a certain sense like real creatures in the future.


The story behind living robot: "computer + biology" perfect cross-border cooperation


Many of the science and technology you see today are based on the processing of steel, concrete, chemicals and plastics, which degrade over time and may have harmful ecological and health side effects.


Synthetic materials are more widely used than living materials because they are easier to design, manufacture and maintain. Dead cells are easier to redesign to meet other needs. For example, the raw material of a book is wood, but you can't say that a tree can make a book.


Therefore, it is useful and effective to apply self-renewal and biocompatibility materials, i.e. materials similar to living cells, to science and technology. Among them, life system itself is the candidate of ideal material.

而这个“活体机器人“,就是生活材料应用的最佳实践者。研究人员从非洲爪蛙(Xenopus laevis)胚胎干细胞中分化,分成心脏细胞(收缩细胞)和表皮细胞(被动细胞)两部单个细胞,然后进行孵育。

And this "living robot" is the best practitioner of the application of living materials. The researchers differentiated from embryonic stem cells of Xenopus laevis, divided them into two parts: heart cells (contraction cells) and epidermal cells (passive cells), and then incubated them.


The green part at the top of the left is the passive cell, while the alternating red and green part is the active cell

为了让活体机器人可以按照科学家指定的方式移动,研究团队在 UVM VVAC 的 Deep Green 超级计算机集群上进行了数月的处理,并使用了一种进化算法,为新的生命形式创建了数千个候选设计。为了完成科学家分配的任务(例如在一个方向上移动),计算机一遍又一遍地将数百个模拟细胞重新组装成无数种形态。

In order to allow the living robot to move in the way designated by scientists, the research team conducted several months of processing on the deep green supercomputer cluster of UVM vvac, and used an evolutionary algorithm to create thousands of candidate designs for new life forms. To accomplish tasks assigned by scientists (such as moving in one direction), computers reassemble hundreds of simulated cells into countless forms over and over again.


On the left is the candidate design created by evolutionary algorithm, and on the right is the combination of model and cell

而后再将非洲爪蛙单个表皮细胞和心肌细胞进行结合,并利用 Deep Green 设计出来的最佳模型,使用微小的镊子和均匀的电极,将细胞切割并在显微镜下连接成计算机指定设计的近似值,不断尝试与实验,创造出全球首个 “活体机器人”。

Then, the single epidermal cells and cardiac myocytes of the African claw frog were combined, and the best model designed by deep green was used. With tiny tweezers and uniform electrodes, the cells were cut and connected under the microscope to the approximate value specified by the computer. The experiment and experiment were carried out continuously to create the world's first "living robot".

这是有史以来第一次“完全从头开始设计完全生物的机器”,100% 由青蛙细胞创造出的一种新生命体。

This is the first time in history to "design completely biological machines from scratch", a new life form created by 100% frog cells.


If the previous robot design is based on mechanical structure, this new research will assemble cells into the body shape never seen in nature, and work together. This will be an amazing research discovery in human history.


In addition to algorithms, researchers let the differentiated cardiac contractile cells, under the guidance of computer design, create an orderly forward motion, so that the robot can continue to move forward.


During the experiment, the researchers also found another fact: the "living robot" can move in the water-based medium, and can rotate.


Later tests show that the living robot, which is different from metal and plastic robots, is completely biodegradable and has the ability of self-healing.


"We cut the robot in half, so it can not only sew itself up, but also move on afterwards," the author said


Interestingly, if you use a microscope to tap the spot on the back of it and turn the robot over, it's like a flipped turtle lying there, motionless.


All these forms, like human expression, can be called "alien awakening" in the field of robotics.


The ethical impact of the unknown world


Although the "living robot" technology is explained in a few hundred words above, in fact, this research needs many technical difficulties to be overcome, and also has great unknown risks.


Many people worry that rapid technological changes and complex biological operations will bring about adverse effects. After the paper was published, foreign netizens commented, "please don't implant it (living robot)", "it is easy to cause substitution and assassination" and so on.


Please enter the picture

该篇论文共同作者山姆·克里格曼(Sam Kriegman)认为,类似的“活体机器人”未来变体将很有可能具备神经系统和认知能力。针对上文所提到的道德问题,他也认为,在发现这类机器人后,政策制定者也能针对性地定制最佳行动方案,“每个人都应该做各种不同的事情,(我们)只是在探索,而(其他人)需要考虑其行为的伦理后果和影响。”

Sam kriegman, co-author of the paper, believes that future variants of similar "living robots" are likely to have neural and cognitive capabilities. In response to the ethical issues mentioned above, he also believes that after discovering such robots, policy makers can also tailor the best action plan accordingly, "everyone should do different things, (we) are only exploring, while (others) need to consider the ethical consequences and impact of their behavior."

斯坦福大学法学教授,生物医学伦理学研究中心指导委员会主席汉克·格里利(Hank Greely)同意该说法,并表示,尽管当前的研究远没有创造出类似人类的东西,但他们仍应牢记这样的伦理学问题,也需要全社会来关注并且优化伦理方案。

Hank Greely, a law professor at Stanford University and chairman of the steering committee of the biomedical ethics research center, agreed, saying that although the current research is far from creating something similar to human beings, they should still keep such ethical issues in mind and need the whole society to pay attention to and optimize ethical programs.


Other researchers believe that the characteristics of living robots show infinite possibilities in the future. They can be used to clean up micro plastic pollution in the ocean, locate and digest toxic substances, or enter human blood vessels, accurately deliver drugs, clear plaque on the arterial wall, etc., which are all the landing areas of living robots.

麻省理工学院(MIT)计算机科学和人工智能实验室(CSAIL)主任 Daniela Rus 也曾指出,技术带来的负面影响,其实跟 AI 技术的关系并不大,而是与人类的控制有关。

Daniela Rus, director of the computer science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT, also pointed out that the negative impact of technology is not related to AI technology, but to human control.


Regardless of the discussion, this does not prevent us from paying attention to the living robot and the idea that the future science fiction hopes to land in reality.


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