Plasmobot Amorphous Biological Robot

A massively-parallel, amorphous non-silicon biological robot - plasmobot - is under development. The basis for it will be plasmodium, the vegetative stage of the slime mould Physarum polycephalum, a mold found in most damp places in the UK.


( Physarum polycephalum, Devon, England)

Project leader Professor Andy Adamatzky explains:

“Most people’s idea of a computer is a piece of hardware with software designed to carry out specific tasks. This mould, or plasmodium, is a naturally occurring substance with its own embedded intelligence. It propagates and searches for sources of nutrients and when it finds such sources it branches out in a series of veins of protoplasm. The plasmodium is capable of solving complex computational tasks, such as the shortest path between points and other logical calculations. Through previous experiments we have already demonstrated the ability of this mould to transport objects. By feeding it oat flakes, it grows tubes which oscillate and make it move in a certain direction carrying objects with it. We can also use light or chemical stimuli to make it grow in a certain direction.

“This new plasmodium robot, called plasmobot, will sense objects, span them in the shortest and best way possible, and transport tiny objects along pre-programmed directions. The robots will have parallel inputs and outputs, a network of sensors and the number crunching power of super computers. The plasmobot will be controlled by spatial gradients of light, electro-magnetic fields and the characteristics of the substrate on which it is placed. It will be a fully controllable and programmable amorphous intelligent robot with an embedded massively parallel computer.”

Biological "robots" were well-known before the age of science fiction. In Hasidic lore, the golem is a kind of magical servant created out of dirt or clay that will serve its maker.

SF fans may be thinking of the 'moldies' from Rudy Rucker's 1997 novel Freeware:

The exact appearance of her humanoid head and arms was something she could tweak...In [her] alternate "pelican" mode, Monique became a set of great flapping wings attached to a tapered big-eyed body...
(Read more about Rucker's moldies)

Update 23-Sep-2009: Even earlier, consider the Ampek F-a2 from Philip K. Dick's 1996 novel The Simulacra..

Nat Flieger reflexively poured water into a cup and fed the living protoplasm incorporated into the Ampek F-a2 recording system which he kept in his office; the Ganymedean life form did not experience pain and had not yet objected to being made over into a portion of an electronic system... neurologically it was primitive, but as an auditory receptor it was unexcelled.
(Read more about the Ampek F-a2)

End updte.

From Science Daily; thanks to Aaron Mayzes and Moira for the tip on this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/4/2009)

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