Self-reproduction is a central tenet of biological life that enables its long-term sustainability and evolutionary adaptation. Although these traits are also desirable in many engineered systems, principles of self-reproduction have not been exploited in machine design. Here we demonstrate a set of autonomous modular robots capable of physical self-reproduction.
A physical system is self-reproducing if it is capable of constructing a detached, functional copy of itself, which – by definition – is also capable of self-reproduction. Self-reproduction differs from self-assembly, where the resulting system is not capable of making, catalyzing or in some way inducing more copies of itself. These phenomena have been a target of significant interest since the early days of computation, but have been examined mostly in abstract and simulated systems.