Connect with us

Innovation

Scientists Have Built The First-Ever Robots Constructed Entirely Out Of Living Cells

Published

on

Scientists Have Built The First-Ever Robots Constructed Entirely Out of Living Cells
Photo Credit: Science Alert

Michelle Stark, Science Alert

In another lifetime, if they had been allowed to follow their natural development, the stem cells taken from embryonic frogs would have turned into skin and heart tissue within living, breathing animals.

Instead, in configurations designed by algorithms and constructed by humans, those cells have been assembled into something new: the first-ever robots constructed entirely out of living cells.

The creators have called them xenobots; tiny, submillimeter-sized blobs containing between 500 and 1,000 cells that have been able to scoot across a petri dish, self-organise, and even transport minute payloads. These xenobots are unlike any living organism or organ we’ve encountered or created to date.

The possibilities for custom living machines designed for a variety of purposes, from targeted drug delivery to environmental remediation, are pretty mind-blowing.

These are novel living machines,” said computer scientist and roboticist Joshua Bongard of the University of Vermont.

“They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.”

Designing the xenobots required the use of a supercomputer, and an algorithm that could virtually put together a few hundred frog heart and skin cells in different configurations (somewhat like LEGO bricks), and simulate the results.

The scientists would assign a desired outcome – such as locomotion – and the algorithm would create candidate designs aimed to produce that outcome. Thousands of configurations of cells were designed by the algorithm, with varying levels of success.

The least successful configurations of cells were tossed out, and the most successful were kept and refined, until they were about as good as they were going to get.

Then, the team selected the most promising designs to physically build out of cells harvested from embryonic African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis). This was painstaking work, using microscopic forceps and an electrode.

When they were finally put together, the configurations were actually able to move around, as per the simulations. The skin cells act as a sort of scaffolding to hold everything together, while the contractions of the heart cell muscles are put to work to propel the xenobots.

These machines moved about an aqueous environment for up to a week without the need for additional nutrients, powered by their own ‘pre-loaded’ energy stores in the form of lipids and proteins.

One design had a hole through the middle in an attempt to reduce drag. This hole could be exapted into a pouch for transporting objects, the team found; as they evolved the design, they incorporated the pouch and transported an object in a simulation.

(Kriegman et al., PNAS, 2019)
(Kriegman et al., PNAS, 2019)

The xenobots moved objects around in the real world, too. When their environment was scattered with particulates, the xenobots spontaneously worked together, moving in a circular motion to push the particulates into one spot.

It’s fascinating work. According to the researchers, their efforts can provide invaluable insight into how cells communicate and work together.

You look at the cells we’ve been building our xenobots with, and, genomically, they’re frogs. It’s 100% frog DNA – but these are not frogs. Then you ask, well, what else are these cells capable of building?” said biologist Michael Levin of Tufts University.

“As we’ve shown, these frog cells can be coaxed to make interesting living forms that are completely different from what their default anatomy would be.”

Although the team calls them ‘living’, which may well depend on how you define living creatures. These xenobots are not able to evolve on their own, there are no reproductive organs, and they are unable to multiply.

When the cells run out of nutrients, the xenobots simply become a small clump of dead cells. (This also means they are biodegradable, which gives them another advantage over metal and plastic robots.)

Although the current state of the xenobots is relatively harmless, there is the potential for future work to incorporate nervous system cells, or develop them into bioweapons. As this field of research grows, regulation and ethics guidelines will need to be written, applied and adhered to.

But there is plenty of potential good, too.

We can imagine many useful applications of these living robots that other machines can’t do,” Levin said, “like searching out nasty compounds or radioactive contamination, gathering micro-plastic in the oceans, travelling in arteries to scrape out plaque.”

The research has been published in PNAS, and the team has made their source code freely available on Github.

This article (Scientists Have Built The First-Ever Robots Constructed Entirely Out Of Living Cells) was originally created for Science Alert and is published here under Creative Commons.

Please SHARE this article with your family and friends.

Innovation

Elon Musk: We Are One Year Away From Fully Autonomous, Self-Driving Cars

Elon Musk says we are essentially within a year of fully autonomous cars being a reality.

Published

on

Elon Musk: We Are One Year Away From Fully Autonomous, Self-Driving Cars
Photo Credit: TMU

(TMU) – Would you entrust your life to a car’s algorithmic intelligence? Would you curl up in the backseat and take a nap while your vehicle navigates hectic freeway traffic or busy intersections? Would you let your car be the designated driver while you have a night out on the town?

According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, we are essentially within a year of such technology existing, though he adds the caveat that it will likely take longer before the system is fully deployed and adopted.

Earlier this month, Musk announced the advance at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai. He has since elaborated during several podcast interviews.

To Cathie Wood and Tasha Keeney of ARK Invest in a podcast, he stated: 

“I think we will be feature complete — full self-driving — this year. Meaning the car will be able to find you in a parking lot, pick you up and take you all the way to your destination without an intervention, this year.”

Musk added that you can expect to be able to take a nap behind the wheel if you want.

“My guess as to when we would think it is safe for somebody to essentially fall asleep and wake up at their destination? Probably towards the end of next year.”

Such technology would be a first-of-its-kind level 5 autonomous vehicle in which the car capable of handling all driver functions without human assistance or supervision.

Musk acknowledges that it is a difficult task. Currently, Tesla offers an Enhanced Autopilot feature that “guides a car from a highway’s on-ramp to off-ramp, including suggesting and making lane changes, navigating highway interchanges, and taking exits.”

“On a development level, [there is] no problem recognizing stop signs and traffic lights,” Musk has said. “But you do get ambiguity in some complex intersections with traffic lights. Like, which one’s the right light to focus on? Even if you’re a person, it’s not always clear. So that’s what we’re working on there.”

Technology experts and economists, citing multiple studies, suggest self-driving cars, or automated vehicles (AVs), will have massive beneficial effects on cities and human society.

AVs will free up an additional 50 minutes a day for human users, accumulating to an extra billion hours of productivity around the world. Perhaps even more importantly, AVs will dramatically reduce car accident fatalities (by up to 90% of the annual 1.2 million worldwide deaths), which will also save $190 billion in the U.S. alone.

AVs will also transform cities, leading to an 80% reduction in the overall number of vehicles, which will drastically reduce traffic congestion, free up new land, and lead to an overall reduction of pollution.

Tesla is currently in an AV race with other companies developing self-driving cars, including Waymo, Uber, Lyft, and traditional automakers. In 2018, Alphabet’s Waymo launched its robo-taxi service, though it was not fully autonomous.

AVs are expected to simultaneously usher in a new gold rush of consumer robotics and machine learning, including remote advanced sensing, hyperprecise positioning/GPS, image recognition, and advanced artificial intelligence (AI) development.

Please SHARE this article with your family and friends.

Continue Reading

Innovation

Man Designs An Off-Road “Wheelchair” So That His Wife Can Go Places She Never Imagined

In hopes of getting his wife to see more, Zack Nelson created a hybrid wheel chair so she could go places she could not before.

Published

on

Photo Credit: Zacks Jerryrig

In the USA alone, there are around 2.7 million people who are bound to a wheelchair. Most of us take our abled bodies for granted at times. We don’t think twice when we climb stairs, or go for a walk in nature.

Meet Cambry, for almost all her adult life she has been wheelchair bound, unable to get around like her able-bodied friends, she’s been restricted to the pavement.

In hopes of getting Cambry to see more and be less restricted, her boyfriend at the time, Zack Nelson, created a hybrid wheel chair so she could go places she could not before. He merged two electric bikes and put a seat in the center. The best part was, it worked, and Cambry was able to experience a new found freedom thanks to the awesome creation Zack made for her.

The new spliced bike creation allowed Cambry to tackle obstacles that would normally be impossible in a regular wheelchair, and she could go on for miles without her shoulders hurting from pushing herself along.

It’s a year later now, and Cambry and Zack are not only married, but they have begun mass producing the “Not-a-Wheelchair” – the amazing off road vehicle has taken a year to perfect.

Choosing an adaptive off roader for disabled people doesn’t leave you with many options, the couple have said. They can cost as much as a regular car or are just insanely slow. Zack and Cambry came up with their design which is light and quick and comes with a long range, but it was not all easy and smooth sailing. Cambry explained:

“The toughest challenge when developing ‘Not-A-Wheelchair’ is the price. We wanted to create something that is affordable for everyone. Finding quality components, and a simple enough design at the cheapest price possible took quite a bit of time. But I think we have something now that everyone will be able to enjoy, at a fraction of the cost of other ‘off-road wheelchairs’ currently on the market.”

‘Not-a-Wheelchair’ is definitely not an indoor machine, so Cambry still uses her normal wheelchair for inside their home but any time she and Zack go to the park, or on a hike, she jumps in The Rig. “It’s silent, which means that we can all still talk and chat while she rides next to the group,” her husband explained.

During these trips, ‘Not-a-Wheelchair’ really showed what it’s capable of. “We have taken The Rig to Hawaii twice for testing. The bike has to be shipped with a freight company before we go, but we ship The Rig about a week before we fly out ourselves, and it’s waiting there for us when we arrive. All this travel was before COVID was a thing. Luckily, we also live near mountains and snow with long wide flat trails to try the bike out on.”

More info: notawheelchair.com | YouTube

Please SHARE this article with your family and friends.

Continue Reading

Innovation

Bionic Eyes That ‘Surpass Biological Eyesight’ And Have Night-Vision Are Coming Soon

An innovation in bionic eyes is in development that could not only restore vision but actually surpass biological eyesight.

Published

on

Bionic Eyes That ‘Surpass Biological Eyesight’ And Have Night-Vision Are Coming Soon
Photo Credit: BBC

(TMU) – Will people with eyesight loss soon view the world through bionic vision? A new proof-of-concept biomimetic eye suggests the answer is ‘yes.’ Scientists and researchers say a new bionic eye innovation is in development that could not only restore vision but may actually surpass the optical sensitivity of biological eyesight.

The key, according to new research published in the journal Nature, is perovskite, a conductive, light-sensitive material commonly used in solar cells.

Researchers used perovskite to build tiny nanowire sensors occupying a curved aluminum oxide membrane, which collectively act as a 3-dimensional artificial retina. The nanowire sensors, several thousandths of a millimetre in length, simulate the photoreceptor cells found in organic human eyeballs.

Study co-author Zhiyong Fan says that for this proof-of-concept phase, the research team tested the visual information gathered from the bionic eye by using wires to replicate the brain’s visual cortex and then uploading that data to a computer.

Because of the extreme sensitivity of the nanowires, the bionic eye is quicker to react to light (processing 800-nanometer wavelengths) than an actual human eye. Researchers believe it is likely to also be more effective at image resolution and capable of night-vision.

According to Fan, the biomimetic eye will eventually surpass the range of vision of an average biological human eye:

“One more functional difference is that [the] human eye can only see optical wavelength range from 400 to 700 nm [nanometers]. However our current artificial eye can already respond to 200 nm ~ 800 nm wavelength range. In the future, if we choose to use a narrow bandgap semiconductor as photosensing material to build our artificial retina, then infrared light will be visible to the artificial eye.”

Incredibly, Fan added, “A human user of the artificial eye will gain night vision capability.”

The research team included scientists at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, UC Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Human eyes operate like cameras, utilizing a single lens that affords us visual abilities 100 times better than insects, whose eyesight involves a compound of many tiny lenses translating light. Researchers sought to mimic this natural formula, even simulating the vitreous humour in a biological human eye with a “gel-like ionic liquid” that conducts energy into the artificial retina.

“Biological eyes are arguably the most important sensing organ for most of the animals on this planet. In fact, our brains acquire more than 80% of information about our surroundings via our eyes,” the researchers write in their paper.

“Particularly, the domed shape of the retina has the merit of reducing the complexity of optical systems by directly compensating the aberration from the curved focal plane. Mimicking human eyes, artificial vision systems are just as essential in autonomous technologies such as robotics.”

Interfacing with the human visual system still presents a challenge to this technology. Nevertheless, some scientists believe we’re no more than 10 years away from deploying bionic eyes. Combined with Elon Musk’s “neural lace” brain-AI merging technology, which he claims is only 4-5 years off, the 2030s could be a wild decade.

Please SHARE this article with your family and friends.

Continue Reading

Innovation

Italian Engineer’s Brilliant 3D-Printer Hack Can Convert Scuba Gear Into Ventilator Masks

There is currently a worldwide shortage of ventilators.

Published

on

Mummified Woman Found Buried In Siberia Wearing Foal-Skin Stockings And Copper Cross
Photo Credit: Isinnova

An Italian 3D-printer company has devised a method to turn snorkelling masks into ventilator masks, which will be of huge benefit to coronavirus patients.

COVID-19 affects people’s respiratory systems and there is currently a worldwide shortage of ventilators. But in this time of crisis, various companies have been prepared to diverge from their usual business in order to try and save lives.

Louis Vuitton have for example been assisting with hand sanitizer. Car manufactures are ready to assist with building ventilators.

Now, an Italian company called Isinnova are at the forefront of a revolution to produce 3D ventilators on a large scale. Isinnova have already developed a 3D-printed valve for a Northern Italian hospital in Brescia.

Company founder and CEO Cristian Fracassi took a 3D-printer to the hospital and were able to design and produce the valves in just a few hours. The valves were needed for the respiratory machines which help patients to breathe.

Other companies have succeeded in converting swimming masks into protective PPE masks (standard protective face masks).

Isinnova is now taking things a step further as they team up with a French snorkelling mask company called Decathlon.

Using 3D-printer technology, a new component has been designed which will connect the mask to the ventilator machine.

The Isinnova website provided some background to how it all came about:

“Doctor Favero [head physician of the Gardone Valtrompia Hospital], shared with us an idea to fix the possible shortage of hospital C-PAP masks for sub-intensive therapy. Which is emerging as a concrete problem linked to the spread of Covid-19. It’s the construction of an emergency ventilator mask, realized by adjusting a snorkelling mask already available on the market.”

Tests Have Been Successful

The prototype 3D ventilator mask was tested in Chiari Hospital and the hospitals were reported to be ‘enthusiastic’ about the results.

The mask and its link to the respirator are not yet authorized, but patients are still able to sign declarations to use such uncertified biomedical devices.

Isinnova also stated that, they will allow the patent for the invention to remain free to use.

Their computer files will also be publicly shared so that other 3D-printer companies can manufacture the ventilator masks.

By Anthony McLennan | TruthTheory.com | Republished with permission.

The views in this article may not reflect editorial policy of Collective Spark.

Please SHARE this article with your family and friends.

Continue Reading
Advertisement report this ad
Advertisement report this ad

Trending Now

STAY AWARE

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

You have Successfully Subscribed!