<< preface

this blog is nina wenhart's collection of resources on the various histories of new media art. it consists mainly of non or very little edited material i found flaneuring on the net, sometimes with my own annotations and comments, sometimes it's also textparts i retyped from books that are out of print.

it is also meant to be an additional resource of information and recommended reading for my students of the prehystories of new media class that i teach at the school of the art institute of chicago in fall 2008.

the focus is on the time period from the beginning of the 20th century up to today.

>> search this blog


>> Karl Sims, "Artificial Evolution for Computer Graphics", 1991



This paper describes how evolutionary techniques of variation and selection can be used to create complex simulated structures, textures, and motions for use in computer graphics and animation. Interactive selection, based on visual perception of procedurally generated results, allows the user to direct simulated evolutions in preferred directions. Several examples using these methods have been implemented and are described. 3D plant structures are grown using fixed sets of genetic parameters. Images, solid textures, and animations are created using mutating symbolic lisp expressions. Genotypes consisting of symbolic expressions are presented as an attempt to surpass the limitations of fixed-length genotypes with predefined expression rules. It is proposed that artificial evolution has potential as a powerful tool for achieving flexible complexity with a minimum of user input and knowledge of details.

(that was to get a general idea, if you are interested in the history of artificial life then go on reading here:)


Procedural models are increasingly employed in computer graphics to create scenes and animations having high degrees of complexity. A price paid for this complexity is that the user often loses the ability to maintain sufficient control over the results. Procedural models can also have limitations because the details of the procedure must be conceived, understood, and designed by a human. The techniques presented here contribute towards solutions to these problems by enabling ``evolution'' of procedural models using interactive ``perceptual selection.'' Although they do not give complete control over every detail of the results, they do permit the creation of a large variety of complex entities which are still user directed, and the user is not required to understand the underlying creation process involved.

Many years ago Charles Darwin proposed the theory that all species came about via the process of evolution [2]. Evolution is now considered not only powerful enough to bring about biological entities as complex as humans and consciousness, but also useful in simulation to create algorithms and structures of higher levels of complexity than could easily be built by design. Genetic algorithms have shown to be a useful method of searching large spaces using simulated systems of variation and selection [23][7][6][5]. In The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins has demonstrated the power of Darwinism with a simulated evolution of 2D branching structures made from sets of genetic parameters. The user selects the ``biomorphs'' that survive and reproduce to create each new generation [4][3]. Latham and Todd have applied these concepts to help generate computer sculptures made with constructive solid geometry techniques [28][9].

Variations on these techniques are used here with the emphasis on the potential of creating forms, textures, and motions that are useful in the production of computer graphics and animation, and also on the potential of using representations that are not bounded by a fixed space of possible results.

2.1 Evolution

Both biological and simulated evolutions involve the basic concepts of genotype and phenotype, and the processes of expression, selection, and reproduction with variation.

The genotype is the genetic information that codes for the creation of an individual. In biological systems, genotypes are normally composed of DNA. In simulated evolutions there are many possible representations of genotypes, such as strings of binary digits, sets of procedural parameters, or symbolic expressions. The phenotype is the individual itself, or the form that results from the developmental rules and the genotype. Expression is the process by which the phenotype is generated from the genotype. For example, expression can be a biological developmental process that reads and executes the information from DNA strands, or a set of procedural rules that utilize a set of genetic parameters to create a simulated structure. Usually, there is a significant amplification of information between the genotype and phenotype.

Selection is the process by which the fitness of phenotypes is determined. The likelihood of survival and the number of new offspring an individual generates is proportional to its fitness measure. Fitness is simply the ability of an organism to survive and reproduce. In simulation, it can be calculated by an explicitly defined fitness evaluation function, or it can be provided by a human observer as it is in this work.

Reproduction is the process by which new genotypes are generated from an existing genotype or genotypes. For evolution to progress there must be variation or mutations in new genotypes with some frequency. Mutations are usually probabilistic as opposed to deterministic. Note that selection is, in general, non-random and is performed on phenotypes; variation is usually random and is performed on the corresponding genotypes [See figure 1].

Figure 1: Phenotype selection, genotype reproduction.

The repeated cycle of reproduction with variation and selection of the most fit individuals drives the evolution of a population towards higher and higher levels of fitness.

Sexual combination can allow genetic material of more than one parent to be mixed together in some way to create new genotypes. This permits features to evolve independently and later be combined into a single individual. Although it is not necessary for evolution to occur, it is a valuable practice that can enhance progress in both biological and simulated evolutions.

2.2 Genetic Algorithms

Genetic algorithms were first developed by Holland [11] as robust searching techniques in which populations of test points are evolved by random variation and selection. They have become widely used in a number of applications to find optima in very large search spaces [23][7][6].

Genetic algorithms differ from the examples presented in this paper in that they usually utilize an explicit analytic function to measure the fitness of phenotypes. Since it is difficult to automatically measure the aesthetic visual success of simulated objects or images, here the fitness is provided by a human user based on visual perception. Some combinations of automatic selection and interactive selection are also utilized.

Population sizes used for genetic algorithms are usually fairly large (100 to 1000 or more) to allow searching of many test points and avoiding only local optima. At each generation, many individuals survive and reproduce to create the next generation. For the examples presented in this paper, the success of a solution is dependent on human opinion, therefore there is no single global optimum. Many local optima are potentially interesting solutions. For this reason, and also because of user interface practicality, a smaller population size has been used (20 - 40), and only one or two individuals are chosen to reproduce for each new generation.

Genotypes used in genetic algorithms traditionally consist of fixed-length character strings used by fixed expression rules. This is appropriate for searching predefined dimensional spaces for optimum solutions, but these restrictions are sometimes limiting. Koza [13][12] has used hierarchical lisp expressions as genotypes such that the dimensionality of the search space itself can be extended to successfully solve problems such as artificial ant navigation and game strategies. Discovery systems, such as AM, Eurisko, and Cyrano, also utilize a form of mutating lisp programs [14][8]. The examples of evolving images, volume textures, and animations presented here also use genotypic representations composed of lisp expressions, although the set of functions used includes various vector transformations, noise generators, and image processing operations, as well as standard numerical functions.

In the next section, techniques for using artificial evolution to explore samples in parameter spaces are discussed. In section 4, examples of evolving images, volume textures, and animations which utilize mutating symbolic expressions as genotypes are presented. Finally, results, suggestions for future work, and conclusions are given in the last three sections.


Procedural models such as fractals, graftals, and procedural texturing allow a user to create a high degree of complexity with relatively simple input information [25][21][19][18]. One method of procedural structure creation involves a set of N input parameters each of which has an effect on a developmental process which assembles the structure. The set of possible structures corresponds to the N-dimensional space of possible parameter values. Consider an array of knobs, each controlling one parameter, that can be experimentally turned to adjust the results. As more options are added to the procedure for more variation of results, the number of input parameters grows and it can become increasingly difficult for a user to predict the effects of adjusting particular parameters and combinations of parameters, and to adjust the knobs effectively by hand.

An alternative approach is to sample randomly in the neighborhood of a currently existing parameter set by making random alterations to a parameter or several parameters, then inspect and select the best sample or samples of those presented. This allows exploration through the parameter space in incremental arbitrary directions without requiring knowledge of the specific effects of each parameter. This is artificial evolution in which the genotype is the parameter set, and the phenotype is the resulting structure. Selection is performed by the user picking preferred phenotypes from groups of samples, and as long as the samples can be generated and displayed quickly enough, it can be a useful technique.

(to continue reading, visit the url posted above)

No comments:

>> labels

>> timetravel

>> cloudy with a chance of tags

Powered By:Blogger Widgets



My photo
... is a Media Art historian and independent researcher. She is currently writing on "speculative archiving && experimental preservation of Media Art" and graduated from Prof. Oliver Grau's Media Art Histories program at the Danube University in Krems, Austria with a Master Thesis on Descriptive Metadata for Media Arts. For many years, she has been working in the field of archiving/documenting Media Art, recently at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Media.Art.Research and before as the head of the Ars Electronica Futurelab's videostudio, where she created their archives and primarily worked with the archival material. She was teaching the Prehystories of New Media Class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and in the Media Art Histories program at the Danube University Krems.