Art from code - Generator.x
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Tag: Computational design

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Information visualization: Social Collider / Synchronous Objects

Schmidt & Pohflepp: Social Collider / William Forsythe & ACCAD: Synchronous Objects

A disclaimer is in order: The following post is not original content, rather it is a collection of links provided by various people on a private mailing list. The initial request (from Memo Akten) was for “really hot data visualization”, and the following suggestions were made by some fairly knowledgeable people.

They are presented here as an unedited list of links, they are listed in the order they appeared on the list. Some are fairly new projects while others are well-known canonical works. Two new favorites are shown above, namely Social Collider and Synchronous Objects.

Some pseudo-random Info Viz links


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.


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.


Once a Mathematician always an Artist is a recent article posted at on Andy Lomas’ artwork “Aggregation” which has been displayed at several art galleries around the world this past year. Lomas was a CGI Supervisor at ESC for Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions when he researched simulation of growth processes for use in visual effects for the films. He wanted to create an organic look and feel to the black “goo” surrounding the victims faces upon being punched by Mr. Smith. The mathematical rules used for Aggregation is inspired by a base algorithm called “diffusion limited aggregation” – a fractal growth model – which was invented by physicists T.A. Witten and L.M. Sander in 1981. The complex black and white life like 3d forms are “grown” in virtual cylinders in a process resembling the growth processes in coral reef structures.


This is a short video showing off Hudson-Powell's Reactive Type and Barbican projects. Unfortunately, there is no sound as the video was shot directly from the screen.

Video: Hudson-Powell – Reactive Type / Barbican visuals (~4.5 MB)