"Prof. Joseph Ayers' presentation at the 4th New Phytologist Workshop (Synthetic Biology). More videos and information from the Workshop can be found at: http://www.newphytologist.org/synthetic/default.htm
The adaptive capabilities of underwater organisms result from layered exteroceptive reflexes responding to gravity, impediment, and hydrodynamic and optical flow. In combination with taxic responses to point sources of sound or chemicals, these reflexes allow reactive autonomy in the most challenging of environments. We are developing a new generation of lobster and lamprey-based robots that operate under control by synaptic networks rather than algorithms. The networks are based on the command neuron, coordinating neuron, central pattern generator architecture, code sensor input as labeled lines and activate shape memory alloy-based artificial muscle through a simple neuromuscular interface. In a separate project, we are developing an electronic nervous system to control the flight of RoboBee. In all systems, the behavioral set results from chaining sequences of exteroceptive reflexes released by sensory feedback from the environment. In parallel we are exploring principles of synthetic biology to develop biohybrid robots and sensors and actuators that can interface to electronic nervous systems. Cyberplasm combines an aVLSI electronic nervous system with engineered cellular sensors and engineered muscle that responds to light generated by oLEDs gated by neuron action potentials. In the ONR MURI we are integrating programmable bacteria with RoboLobster and RoboLamprey to enhance chemosensory capabilities."