Art from code - Generator.x
Generator.x is a conference and exhibition examining the current role of software and generative strategies in art and design. [Read more...]
Tag: ai

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Soda has released a mock-up of SodaPlay 2.0 (see blog here and here). It’s over on, and gives a pretty good idea of how the new system will work when fully functional.

Most exciting for SodaPlay enthusiasts should be the links to functional new style SodaPlay applications (see image above). These launch under Java Webstart, and require Java 5.0. and a discussion forum about SodaPlay 2.0 are also online.

And if you’re a true Soda fanboy, you can follow the exploits of the Soda creative team documented on the soda creative Flickr pool, of which Alexander Kohlhofer aka Plasticshore is the most prolific contributor.


Ed Burton from Soda has given some feedback on Tuesday’sSodaPlay 2.0 entry. He hastens to point out that Playforge is not strictly a XML framework just for SodaConstructor, but rather a general application framework that will form the base of all future SodaPlay applications. That way all projects based on Playforge will benefit from common services such as user authentication, persistence etc.

Here are some further explanations from Ed:

Why Sodaplay 2.0?
Currently is the home of the spring and mass editor and simulator Sodaconstructor together with the remarkably diverse models that hundreds of thousands of talented users have learnt to create with it. Here we launch our vision of Sodaplay 2.0 as an evolving ecology of applications of which a redeveloped Sodaconstructor will be just one. These applications can be created, modified, extended and shared by Sodaplay users themselves.

By giving a community of users that includes teachers, students, hobbyists and developers the ability to not only use but also modify and create applications that benefit from shared services such as online storage and discussion we seek to nurture a creative ecosystem of innovation that can develop and tailor applications to fit into multiple contexts spanning art, science, learning and play.

What is Playforge?
Playforge is the term we use for the underlying framework that Sodaplay 2.0 will be an instance of. Sodaplay applications such as Sodaconstructor and Sodacities will benefit from common Playforge services such as user authentication, persistence and discussion. Playforge will also make it possible to modify the user interface of an application by simply editing an XML file, or extend the behaviour of an application by augmenting it with additional java code all without the need to re-write the original applications source code.

Ed confirmed the link between SodaConstructor and the work of Karl Sims, pointing to an interview he did with Sims for It is recommended reading for anyone interested in evolutionary approaches to creature design. Thanks, Ed!


As mentioned in the previous post about Soda, there are some interesting new SodaConstructor developments in the works. While talking to the Soda crew in London a few weeks back I was lucky enough to get some details.

From its launch in 2000, the popularity of the SodaConstructor project exceeded all expectations. It was intended to be a simple experiment with Java, spring dynamics and meccano-like creatures, but quickly became a runaway hit with mentions in fashion magazines and the popular press. Something about SodaConstructor gets to people. You can call it the LEGO effect or draw parallels to the popularity of "god games", but put simply SodaConstructor is just good clean fun.

Today, SodaConstructor has over registered 200 000 users that can save their creations and show them off to others. The site sees over 200 000 visitors per month, many of whom are temporary visitors. For some users SodaConstructor has become both a serious hobby and an arena for research. There are even user-run community sites like sodaplaycentral, with serious articles on how to build "amoeba" type creatures and the workings of Multiple Stiffness Springs.

SodaPlay 2.0: The community. At first Soda was unprepared for the popularity of the project, and had no time to support or develop it further. A simple but much-needed mechanism for saving user models was added, and allowed for the Sodazoo. In 2002 SodaRace was released thanks to external support. It provided a XML file format for models, making it possible to automate model design through AI and alife strategies. With a nod to Karl Sims’ classic Evolved Virtual Creatures, SodaRace uses the metaphor of a race to evaluate the ability of different models to navigate a random terrain. It became a hit with the AI and engineering community.

Now, with the generous long-time support of NESTA Soda are working on combining the popularity and simplicity of SodaConstructor with the advanced functions of SodaRace. The result will be SodaPlay 2.0, which will combine community functions (think Flickr, with galleries, comments etc) with a XML application framework called Playforge for creating models as well as modifying the SodaConstructor environment itself. SodaPlay 2.0 is scheduled for launch sometime in the near future.

The details of the APIs and framework are still being worked on, but users will be able to customize the interface of the Constructor enviroment as well as the physical simulation being used. These modifications can be saved as “Extensions” and shared with other users. Like with SodaRace, a web API will allow communication and uploading to the SodaPlay server, so user-written applications can be used to contribute to the environment.

Other ideas like a SodaConstructor screensaver which automatically downloads models for display are in the works. As with any service, opening SodaConstructor up to users through APIs and standard file format could potentially transform how the tool is used and what results that can be produced. Constructor heads should have exciting times indeed.

I have asked the SodaPlay team to give a short explanation of PlayForge and future functions, I will post that in a follow-up when I get it.


Wilfried from Socialfiction sent us this info about a new Crystalpunk event in Utrecht:

Interaction is the Crystalpunk Drug
11-12 March 2006 Utrecht: A “Crystalpunk Workshop for Soft Architecture” event; Oudenoord 275, Utrecht, NL

Essentially it was William Butler Yeats who defined soft architecture as early as 1888 when he wrote:

“Behind the visible are chains on chains of conscious beings, who are not of heaven but of earth, who have no inherent form but change according to their whim, or the mind that sees them. You cannot lift your hand without influencing and being influenced by hoards. The visible world is merely their skin.”.

Read the rest of this entry »


Artificial Intelligence anecdotes: I recently stumbled upon the Long Bets Foundation, a spin-off of the Long Now Foundation. Long Bets allows participants to place bets on predictions about the future, with a minimum running time of 2 years.

Long Bet #1 is as follows: By 2029 no computer - or "machine intelligence" - will have passed the Turing Test. It was placed by Mitchell Kapor (who bet in favor of the prediction) and Ray Kurzweil (who bet against), with each placing $10,000 in stake money. Whoever wins will donate the money to either the EFF or the Kurzweil foundation.

A follow up bet is #172: A machine capable of passing the Turing Test will be made in 2075 using only hardware that was available in 2005. This bet was placed by Kevin Kelly with no opponent. Want to take him up on it?

Leonel Moura : Artsbot

Leonel Moura: Painting with robots

Leonel Moura is a Portuguese artist who creates generative art using robots. He places his work in the field of painting, but questions the artist’s own role in the work. He envisions a “Symbiotic art” where man and machine work together to abandon the domination of the art field by arbitrary human perceptions. The text "Swarm Paintings - Non-human art" outlines his interests in the fields of Artificial Intelligence and robotics as artistic tools.

A true unmanned art depends on the capacity to produce mechanical ‘organisms’ able to create their own art. This can be achieved by building devices with some kind of environmental awareness that run algorithms based on simple rules. The art produced is not predetermined in any manner, resulting rather from randomness and stigmergy, that is, indirect communication between multiple agents trough the environment. To witness the construction of a painting by autonomous robots represents for the human viewer an experience of global consciousness.

All this theory about the negation of the artist-as-genius is well-founded both in artificial intelligence theory and art history, but what is interesting is how the artist translates his ideas to actual work. Moura’s robot-executed paintings are very expressive, even organic in their appearance, without any aspect of a machinic aesthetic. The pieces are possessed of a distinctive movement and quality of line, as well as a dynamic use of color.

The mbots themselves look more like pragmatic solutions than high science, elegant in their lo-fi simplicity. It must be a pleasant experience to watch them paint.