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: research

This page shows all the posts tagged with . Other popular tags are: , , , , , , , , , . You can also browse all tags together.

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.


Soda was one of the original interaction design companies that really walked the walk. Instead of talking about the future, they were making it all the way back in 1996. Originally focused on technology and art with more than a slight architectural interest, they created a number of installations exploring robotics and unconventional interfaces. See 2743, Corrupted Nature and C20 Screen for examples of this activity.

More recently, Soda’s Journey presents the viewer with an oh-so-subtle journey through artworks owned by the National Art Collections Fund. An advanced algorithm identifies similar structures in two different images, so that zooming in on a small area of the first image gradually reveals the second. The result is a hypnotic never-ending fractal zoom. When Casson Mann Designers were asked to create an exhibit on Energy for the Science Museum, they worked with Soda to develop the concept and behaviour of the 40 meter long LED screen that is the Energy Ring (see the video).

Soda’s biggest claim to fame is without doubt the SodaConstructor. Launched in 2000 as a personal experiment (Ed Burton wanted to learn Java), it quickly exploded and within months was receiving more than a quarter of a million visits per week. Since then, several improved versions have been launched and the SodaConstructor community has grown immensely. Some very exciting SodaConstructor projects are in the pipeline, more about that in a separate post.

Pure resarch is central to Soda. Alongside commercial work they have received and worked on numerous research grants. Their research is then fed back into the commercial work, or made available to the design and engineering communities. SodaConstructor and Moovl have received considerable interest and support from NESTA, with exciting future developments still to come. These tools have then been used in schools from kids at primary level up to engineering graduates.

Soda’s work is analytical, minimal and of high technical quality. Their projects always retain a purity of form and function, without unnecessary showiness or designer flourishes. Instead of scoring points for trendiness, Soda’s work is the real deal. Producing a high-quality mix of science, design and art projects that actually work, they remain a leading light in an interaction design industry filled with funky demos and non-functional prototypes.


Some calls for proposals that ought to be of interest to Generator.x readers. Sorted in order of deadlines, note that the first two deadlines are this week.

NIFCA is looking for practitioners in architecture, design and the visual arts, interested in the relation of architecture and design to society. The program is concerned with work that from a practical perspective deals with questions, such as, production methods, material, aesthetic, as well as different social and political connotations of architecture and design.
Deadline: 19 March 2006

Computational Models of Creativity in the Arts, a two-day workshop. This workshop will bring together practitioners and researchers who are involved in the use of computational systems in the fine and performing arts, literature, design and animation as well as the associated fields of aesthetics, cognitive science, art history and cultural theory.
Deadline: 19 March 2006
Announcement email

Cybersonica 06: Call for works As part of Cybersonica 06, there will be a two-week exhibition of sonic artworks. These works will explore new forms of interactivity, moving away from the keyboard and mouse and into the physical realm. We are now accepting submissions of existing sonic art works from artists wishing to exhibit and present at this year’s festival.
Deadline: 31 March 2006.

Jan van Eyck Akademie: Artists, designers and theoreticians are invited to submit proposals for individual or collective research projects for a one-year or two-year research period in the departments of Fine Art, Design and Theory.
Deadline:15 April 2006.


Jill Walker’s excellent jill/txt blog about electronic literature, social networking and, well, blogging, has won an award from the Meltzer Foundation at the University of Bergen. She will receive NOK 100 000 (approx EUR 12 000) in recognition of her “excellence in research dissemination”. This is exciting, as it reflects an official recognition of the potential of blogs to create and disseminate knowledge. Read Jill's blog post for more info, and her publications page for more of her work.

Congratulations, Jill, keep up the frontier work!

I am a hard bloggin' scientist. Read the Manifesto.

Apropos: If you are hip blogging scientish, you should have a look at the Hard Bloggin' Scientist manifesto. It provides operating guidelines for a new movement. While a bit tongue-in-cheek, it’s got some valid points.

They even have sticker images (in pink!) that you can put on your blog to represent the blogging massive. What better way to feel like a part of something important…