A future of living machines? International trends and prospects in biomimetic and biohybrid systems

Tony J. Prescott, Nathan Lepora, Paul F M J Vershure

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

9 Citations (Scopus)


Research in the fields of biomimetic and biohybrid systems is developing at an accelerating rate. Biomimetics can be understood as the development of new technologies using principles abstracted from the study of biological systems, however, biomimetics can also be viewed from an alternate perspective as an important methodology for improving our understanding of the world we live in and of ourselves as biological organisms. A biohybrid entity comprises at least one artificial (engineered) component combined with a biological one. With technologies such as microscale mobile computing, prosthetics and implants, humankind is moving towards a more biohybrid future in which biomimetics helps us to engineer biocompatible technologies. This paper reviews recent progress in the development of biomimetic and biohybrid systems focusing particularly on technologies that emulate living organisms - living machines. Based on our recent bibliographic analysis [1] we examine how biomimetics is already creating life-like robots and identify some key unresolved challenges that constitute bottlenecks for the field. Drawing on our recent research in biomimetic mammalian robots, including humanoids, we review the future prospects for such machines and consider some of their likely impacts on society, including the existential risk of creating artifacts with significant autonomy that could come to match or exceed humankind in intelligence. We conclude that living machines are more likely to be a benefit than a threat but that we should also ensure that progress in biomimetics and biohybrid systems is made with broad societal consent.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
PublisherSociety of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE)
ISBN (Print)9780819499813
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventBioinspiration, Biomimetics, and Bioreplication 2014 - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: 10 Mar 201412 Mar 2014


ConferenceBioinspiration, Biomimetics, and Bioreplication 2014
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego, CA


  • biohybrid
  • biomimetic
  • living machines
  • mammalian robots
  • neuroprosthetics
  • social robotics
  • societal impacts


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