Living Machines 2024 Tutorial

Preparing for Human-Biohybrid Robot Interactions 

The rapidly expanding field of biohybrid robotics is inherently interdisciplinary spanning from the biological and material sciences to robotics and computer science. Over the past ten years engineered synthetic components have been combined with living biological materials in new and impressive ways, capturing the attention of popular and scientific media. Prior research has produced an array of tissue-based biohybrid robots (that are built with cardiac and skeletal muscle), micro-biobots (nanoscale functional components integrated with microorganisms), and non-human cyborgs (animal bodies that are manipulated robotically). The novel character and possibilities for biohybrid robots is generating distinct imaginative horizons that this tutorial intends to engage with and prepare for.  

Whilst the shape, size, and functions of future biohybrid robots remain unclear, the field promises to revolutionise current robotics and therefore society. At some point these robots will begin to leave the lab and interact with humans. As the field advances there is growing potential for biohybrid systems to transform our personal lives and social organizations. Such novel interactions pose fundamental social, ethical, and policy-related questions that researchers in this discipline will need to navigate.  

This tutorial aims to prepare researchers in biohybrid robots to anticipate the future of human-biohybrid robot interaction, including the ethical and social implications. We encourage attendees from different backgrounds to participate. Together, using speculative workshop methodology, we will sketch out anticipatory timelines and outline the expected advances of the field, posing fundamental questions: Will humans interact differently with biohybrid robots than with fully biological or synthetic entities? What principles should inform the way such interactions are designed? How can the field innovate responsibly? Using insights from the workshop, we will define what responsible innovations mean in this context. 

This tutorial was developed in collaboration with the Biohybrid Bodies project.


Dr. Rafael Mestre, University of Southampton

Dr. Sergey Astakhov, University of Southampton

Dr. Ned Barker, University College of London


13:30 – 13:50Session AVickie Webster-Wood. Biohybrid Robots Today and Future Directions.
13:50 – 14:10Session BNed Barker, Sergey Astakhov, Rafael Mestre. Why consider Human-Biohybrid Robot Interactions now?
14:10 – 14:30Break
14:30 – 16:00Session CSpeculative timelines
16:00 – 16:20Break
16:20 – 17:30Session DResults, discussions, and next steps


Organizers will take notes during the tutorial and compile the outcomes and insights into a report for participants. We will also share further research outcomes, opportunities for collaboration, and next steps to form a network of researchers in biohybrid robots. This network will focus on responsible research and innovation, addressing the social, ethical, environmental, and policy implications of their work.

We invite Ph.D. students and researchers from all career stages in bioinspired, biomimetic, and soft robotics communities. All interested scientists are more than welcome to participate.