John Choi

22 Jan 2015

3D Virtual Creature Evolution, by Lee Graham (2008)

3D Virtual Creature Evolution is a free software package created by Lee Graham.  It was heavily inspired by Dr. Karl Sims’s computer generated evolution from 1994.  More or less an improved version from Sims’ demonstration, here “creatures” evolve to achieve certain goals a player can set, such as height, distance traveled, and ability to catch spheres.  The user can also set the terrain in which the creature performs activities on, such as bumpy or flat,  Creatures also have evolving “brains”, which are a sets of mathematical operations that determine the creature behavior.   In the video link, we can see a worm-like creature that evolved over several hundred generations that moves in a pinwheel fashion.  Critically, I think the graphics need to improve.  Karl Sims’s work was done in 1994, while this was done in 2008.  I understand that the focus is on the evolutionary algorithms, but I think the forms could be that much more lifelike if instead of using multiple sharp rectangular prisms, a single soft body comprising of the entire body was generated.  This way, the creatures will look more like evolved organisms rather than mere robots.

Species: Artificial Life, Real Evolution (Work in Progress) by James Schumacher

This project is also like Karl Sims’ evolution demo in 1994.  Except that it comprises of an entire ecosystem.  With an environment able to support several thousand creatures at any given time, every single creature is affected by a wealth of attributes that lead to some fascinating results in evolution.  Its not only that each individual creature possesses a unique set of genetic data competing with every other creature simultaneously, but the environment also possesses a myriad of factors that can cause mass extinctions within minutes.  By simply changing the temperature a few notches down and the water level a few notches up, creatures are forced to fight harder against each other and the elements to survive, or die out in the process.  A very nice feature of this game is a cladogram that can be accessed during any point in the game.  In other words, the game records every single species that has ever evolved in a clean, uniform tree.  A few things can be noted about the evolution system.  Everything starts out as little sausage worms, and over time, oddly enough, the most successful species are often evolved into things shaped like butts, pants, or male genitalia (out of pure natural selection?).  The greatest thing about this game is that it neither conflicts with the ideas of intelligent design or evolution.  Things can evolve naturally in accordance with Darwin’s ideas as the player simply observes the ecosystem.  Or the player can intentionally accelerate evolution with “divine interventions” such as keeping some organisms alive, gene splicing and mass extinctions.  In any case, this game looks like one heck of a fun.

Here is the link to the game’s site.