While it might sound both frightening and exciting to SciFi fans, scientists were able to bioengineer a bacteria used to control robots in performing small tasks. The so called “robot brain” could be a function used in the future for both more research and beneficial environmental missions.
Robotics have seen some great advancements within the last decade, with self-awareness tests, creation of big battle bots and self-driving cars. While some have been busy innovating and creating more forms of artificial intelligence, scientists at Virginia Tech has been more preoccupied with finding a way to control them.
That poses as a great relief for those convinced that a robot apocalypse is coming.
With the use of a bioengineered bacteria of E.coli inserted within a robotic car, researchers have observed that they can gain control through biochemical signals and no longer rely on electrical impulses or neurotransmitters.
The study was condoned after they observed fruit flies and mice with probiotics suffering behavioral changes due to bacteria. The first goal of the research was to find out if they could build a microbiome through mathematical codes that will allow it to spread and evolve in a non-living host.
The bioengineered bacteria was integrated into a robot with a microfluidic chemostat similar to its live environment, eventually creating the microbiome that would allow it to colonize and eventually take control. It was also given the ability to emit green or red fluorescent proteins to send signals to the robot’s sensors.
Meaning that when the bacteria instinctively wanted to move toward food source, it would signal the robot to go left or right depending on the color it chose. And it worked. The researchers placed a sugary food source as bait and the bioengineered bacteria guided its non-living host to it.
While certainly fascinating on its own, the possible ramifications of the study could be the basis of other researches. One of the areas to be explored is the matter of toxic oil spills into the natural waters of our planet. While it has been discovered that certain bacteria can clean up the waste, it runs the risk of infecting the waters and further damaging its fauna and vegetation.
However, if integrated into a robot, it could help better control its spreading and prevent it from affecting the outside environment more than it needs to.
Researchers also mentioned that, so far, their aim is to use their findings for further research in bacterial behavior studies. It will help doctors better understand how bacteria move, act and spread, and hopefully pave the way for better, more efficient treatments.
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