Someday people are going to look back at the dawning of the 21st century and think of it as the dark ages, when we were building a robot to replace every living, breathing thing. The latest, and possibly grossest, bio-replicant comes in the form of robotic slime mold. Say hell to the “blob-bot.”
Coming straight out of the Department of Mathematical and Life Sciences at Hiroshima University, this amoeboid robot attempts to mimic the behavior of Physarum polycepharum. P. polycepharum functions without the benefit of a central nervous system. Rather, it moves, grows, and does whatever slime mold does through interaction between single celled spores. It’s a pretty incredible creature, with abilities that include solving mazes faster than most graduate students.
According to a study published in Advanced Robotics, these decentralized amorphous blob-bots operate using fluid filled bodies with multi-spring turntables, and coupled oscillators relying completely on local feedback.
Admittedly watching this slime mold impersonating machine ooze across the surface is pretty darn creepy, but the bot, which has been in development for over ten years may be the first robot that is completely computationally reactive to is environment. It may not have a mind of its own, but that may be even scarier.