You thought it was hard to publish in Science when you were just competing against human beings? Now it just got even more difficult with the advent of ADAM, a robot scientist made at the University of Wales that developed a testable hypothesis, ran experiments, and discovered new genes involved in yeast metabolism. (Wow!) ADAM is a combination of advanced robotics hsrdware and artificial intelligence. The robots results were confirmed by independent (human) investigators. Here is a link to an article on ADAM in National Geographic. What follows is a picture of the robot from the article in Science:
"Adam's basic operations are selection of specified yeast strains from a library held in a freezer, inoculation of these strains into microtiter plate wells containing rich medium, measurement of growth curves on rich medium, harvesting of a defined quantity of cells from each well, inoculation of these cells into wells containing defined media (minimal synthetic dextrose medium plus up to four added metabolites from a choice of six), and measurement of growth curves on the specified media. To achieve this functionality, Adam has the following components: a, an automated –20°C freezer; b, three liquid handlers (one of which can separately control 96 fluid channels simultaneously); c, three automated +30°C incubators; d, two automated plate readers; e, three robot arms; f, two automated plate slides; g, an automated plate centrifuge; h, an automated plate washer; i, two high-efficiency particulate air filters; and j, a rigid transparent plastic enclosure. There are also two bar code readers, seven cameras, 20 environment sensors, and four personal computers, as well as the software. Adam is capable of designing and initiating over a thousand new strain and defined-growth-medium experiments each day (from a selection of thousands of yeast strains), with each experiment lasting up to 5 days. The design enables measurement of OD595nm for each experiment at least once every 30 min (more often if running at less than full capacity), allowing accurate growth curves to be recorded (typically we take over a hundred measurements a day per well), plus associated metadata."
I'm really amazed at the creativity of this group. Lab automation has really come a long way and I believe new discoveries like ADAM will help push biotechnology for the next decade.