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Regenerating robots? How modern science is making science-fiction a reality

What is the future going to look like 10 years from now? 20 years from now? 40 years? The answer is, ” No one knows.”

But to give a decent example of what it may look like, people often refer to sci-fi books, movies, or content. It is no secret that creatives, such as writers, artists, and film directors, have imagined the future for us.

From flying cars in The Jetsons to spaceships to AI robots in iRobot, creatives have set the precedence for scientists and engineers as to what the future could look like.

One particular idea that seemed to inspire scientists and engineers come from the minds of James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd.

Their hit franchise, The Terminator, tells a story of a cyborg assassin sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor whose son (John Connor) will one day be the savior of the human race in a post-apocalyptic future.

Now, this idea stems from the self-regeneration ability that the cyborg assassin, known as T-800 “Model 101” has in its arsenal.

A regenerating robot that can repair itself seems farfetched today. However, engineers at Cornell University have made a breakthrough by creating a ‘lifelike‘ material with artificial metabolism.

Using a material that Cornell engineers termed as DASH (DNA-based Assembly and Synthesis of Hierarchical), they were able to construct a DNA material with capabilities of self-assembly, organization, and metabolism – three key traits of life.

So what does that mean? Dan Luo, professor of biological and environmental engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, explained,

“We are introducing a brand-new, lifelike material concept powered by its very own artificial metabolism. We are not making something that’s alive, but we are creating materials that are much more lifelike than have ever been seen before.”

Essentially, this material is autonomously building itself from the ground up and maintaining itself by decomposing any unwanted matter.

Shogo Hamada, a lecturer and research associate in the Luo lab, and lead and co-corresponding author of the paper further explains this breakthrough stated,

“The designs are still primitive, but they showed a new route to create dynamic machines from biomolecules. We are at a first step of building lifelike robots by artificial metabolism. Even from a simple design, we were able to create sophisticated behaviors like racing. Artificial metabolism could open a new frontier in robotics.”

Is this a new frontier in robotics? This breakthrough can go down several roads. One of them being the production of smarter machines in the manufacturing industry.

Who knows? Perhaps this breakthrough will improve tools in the medical industry or force the complete surrender of the human race to robot overlords.