Artificial lifeforms designed by supercomputers are fully programmable

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This living organism was designed by a supercomputer and assembled in the labSam Kriegman, UVM

Robots are made to mimic living creatures, and as smart as they’re becoming, we can still look at them and understand that they aren’t “living” in any real sense. But that line is now beginning to blur. Researchers at the University of Vermont and Tufts University have essentially created new creatures from frog cells, complete with programmable behaviors.

The new living robots are made of skin and heart cells taken from frog embryos, assembled into stable forms designed by a supercomputer and set loose in a Petri dish. The skin cells work to give the little critters their shape – which kind of resembles a blob with four “legs” – while the heart cells push them around with every pump.

“These are novel living machines,” says Joshua Bongard, co-lead researcher on the project. “They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.”

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