The concept of automation in business and non-business functions has undergone more than a few evolutions along the way. The earliest types of automation-related applications could only carry out repetitive tasks such as printing and basic calculations. In a bid to save time and minimize human error, such applications were used by businesses and individuals to automate the tasks that, according to organizations, employees didn’t need to waste their energy on. The eventually widespread adoption of IoT, AI and robotics resulted in the growth of cognitive automation to execute more challenging, diverse and multifaceted functions such as supply chain operations, robotic surgery, architecture and construction.
The sheer accuracy and consistency of cognitive automation tools powered by AI and robotics allow organizations to evaluate data at lightning-quick speed, predict future trends in consumer demand patterns and formulate robust strategies and frameworks for improved operational efficiency and regulatory compliance. In domotics, cognitive automation brings innovation in the form of smart kitchens, pervasive computing for elder care and autonomous smart cleaners.
Now, AI and robotics are about to witness another giant leap forward with the brand-new concept of self-replicating, “alive” robots known as xenobots.
What Are Procreating Robots?
For several reasons, xenobots are a great leap forward from standard AI and robotics applications of the past. One of the reasons is that such "living" robots may finally enable data scientists, tech developers, businesses and governments around the world to finally create Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). In basic terms (as the concept has a wider meaning too), AGI makes it possible for machines and digital applications to comprehend and perform intelligent tasks that humans do. AGI, currently just a concept, involves robots and smart tools possessing high levels of sentience and machine consciousness to definitively think like humans and make decisions or carry out functions autonomously with the ruthless efficiency of a machine while possessing the strategic nous and short-notice adaptability of the human brain. Xenobots were first developed by researchers at the University of Vermont, US.
Also referred to occasionally as “alive” robots, Xenobots possess a few peculiarities that set them apart from any other existing AI and robotics-based applications. For instance, xenobots are created using an amalgamation of robotics, AI and stem cell technology. The creators of the technology used stem cells from the African clawed frog (its scientific name is Xenopus Laevis) to create a self-healing, self-living robot that is minute in size—xenobots are less than a millimeter wide. Like natural animal and plant cells, the cells used to create xenobots also die after completing their life cycle. Their minute size and autonomy allow xenobots to enter the human body, micro-sized pipelines or underground or extremely small and constricted spaces for performing various kinds of tasks. Additionally, such robots are extremely sturdy despite their tiny size. In this way, xenobots show a passing resemblance to nanobots. Although nanobots are much smaller as compared to xenobots, both are used to perform tasks that require the invasion of micro-spaces to carry out ultra-sensitive operations. Technologies such as AI and robotics, combined with stem cell technology, allow such robots to perfectly blend in with other cells and tissues if they enter the human body for futuristic healthcare-related purposes. One of the biggest advantages of xenobots is their stealthy nature, which enables them to blend in with the surroundings during any operation.
And now, the most important detail of xenobots—they can replicate autonomously and create an army of themselves within no time. Basically, xenobots closely follow the reproduction mechanism of actual cells in plants, animals and other organisms that are found in various ecosystems around the globe. The stem cells within xenobots can undergo endless fission to set in motion a chain of self-replication that can be useful for various kinds of tasks. Although xenobots are a fairly new concept and possess no known and tried applications, their main working mechanism draws parallels with swarm robotics, an AI and robotics’ subsection involving collective robots that function in perfect sync with regards to each other’s movement to carry out complex functions, such as supply chain assembly line distribution and redirection.
What Are the Prospective Applications of Xenobots?
As stated above, there are not many known publicly-carried out applications of xenobots currently in use. So, any use of the AI and robotics-driven technology involves a certain degree of assumption and hypothetical predictions.
In Cancer Treatment
As stated earlier, xenobots are extremely tiny and mobile. Those attributes are a necessity in healthcare, especially during complex and sensitive operations, when an individual’s life is on the line. On diagnosing malignancy in individuals, healthcare experts can release xenobots into their bodies. Using elements of AI and robotics, xenobots can then detect and locate not only the tumor within a person’s body but also the factors directly causing and enabling it to enlarge unabated. Cancer, as you know, needs to be detected at an early stage when a tumor is just being formed to have any realistic chance of stopping it. To detect cancer, doctors can create a xenobot using the cells of a cancer patient themselves using the incredible blending ability of the technology. This serves two purposes—firstly, with the help of computer vision, AI and robotics, doctors can exactly know the location, malignancy status and severity of a tumor by checking details related to the blood flow and organ health. Secondly, the presence of cells of the patient on the xenobots within their body will not trigger massive immune system responses as there are no foreign bodies involved in the procedure at all. Once all these elements fall into place, tumors or precursor cells to a tumor can be taken out of a patient’s body via surgery.
In Bypass Surgeries
There are several other ways in which xenobots can be utilized by healthcare experts. Another example is during major bypass surgeries in heart patients. As you may know, these kinds of operations require surgeons to remove the blockages caused by unsaturated fats and other similar elements within the arteries of an individual. The operation is tricky and even a single misstep could lead to life loss. Micro-sized xenobots can enter the bloodstream of a patient, circulate all around the body without undergoing damage and carry out the task—removing blockades within their arteries and veins. In this way, xenobots treat persons from within their bodies. Once the life-cycle of a xenobot’s cells is over, they can die like other normal cells.
Further advancements in AI and robotics will bring operations such as the two listed above closer to reality from its current concept stage.
In Toxin Detection in Smart Cities
Apart from healthcare, xenobots have use in environmental sustainability too. Smart cities, where urban computing connects several pieces of technology scattered across various zones, can use xenobots for pollution monitoring and control. Xenobots will possess advanced AI and robotics tech, such as the memory of harmful toxins that can cause pollution-related issues in smart cities. Smart city authorities can use the information gathered and analyzed by xenobots to keep control of pollution. Xenobots can also link up with the urban computing network in smart cities to detect novel viral particles in the air or water before alerting the appropriate smart city authorities about it. This can be used to prevent potential disease outbreaks and pandemics in heavily crowded zones in smart cities.
In Operational Direction of Supply Chain Assembly Lines
As stated earlier, xenobots will boost swarm intelligence. This will involve several tiny robots working to carry products into packaging, transport or other functional lines in a multi-way assembly line. Packages can be directed anywhere within a given assembly line just by the swarm intelligence tools aligning with each other in specific ways. This application will be further optimized by xenobots’ self-replication abilities—allowing the robots that have broken down to be replaced in real-time and keep the assembly line in the factory running continually.
There may be a thousand different ways in which procreating robots will impact various sectors. Most importantly, the "living and thinking" nature of this application brings it closer to AGI. That will mark a monumental step forward for AI and robotics in the future.