rootpublicationssketches and applications gravity index

blue boxes

Humans love the idea of unique individuals, all of us snowflakes.

This sketch was spawned as a most innocent experiment in generating organisms to inhabit a computational ecology. Generating critters is a fun, harmless task to put your computer up to.

  one unique little critter  

interactive illustration Click the critter's facebody to randomize his appearance. This little critter walks when you're not playing with him.
To generate a large population of diverse individuals--with as little work as possible--we use a combinatorial system. Combinatorial systems are simply discreet organizations of parts. By combining sets of differing parts--attributes: features, genetics--in unique ways, a multitude of combinations are possible.

Our combinatorial critter's appearance is determined randomly from a set of pre-rendered graphic symbols representing various physical attributes.

figure The array of individual parts used in the permutation of the critters. From top to bottom, faces, hair styles, some mouths, and a row of eyes. The light grey circle indicates their relative placement and does not show on the actual critter.

The organization of the parts within the critter is important. In back, the object containing all other objects is labeled as 'critter'. Nested within the 'critter' Movieclip exists a 'mind', 'head', 'arms', and 'legs'. Further, within the 'head' exists 'lips', both a 'lefteye' and a 'righteye', 'face', and 'hair' movie clips. Staging the critter in such a fashion allows for direct, logical addressing of the critter's individual parts.

the Movieclip composition
of the critter

This version of a computational organism generator stops with the inclusion of graphic features. With the introduction of attributes instructing behaviors, we could generate hundreds of thousands of critters set to accomplish any number of mindless tasks and activities. One emergent behavior might be standing formation for a group photograph.

  With a few simple perspective equations and a camera slightly elevated, it is clear just how strange this crowd of critters actually is.

figure say cheese!

The image above was created by manually rearranging each critter's face until they were all smiling! Just as I had finished whipping them into shape for the photograph, some critter in the second row sneezed.

  figure some critters in a shaded environment

  Now out into the world, little guys! Adding a few trees to the environment keeps our critters company and gives them a better sense of scale.


figure this little critter is having no luck finding shade
The trees that grow up around the critters are simple recursive structures grown with the instantiation of a single seed. Recursive growth is a beautiful thing. These critters' environment is filled varieties of trees with some adaptive properties required for existence on a perspective plane.

Trees can also be modified by clicking them. With each click, the tree chooses a new graphic element for its branches and discards all previously rendered limbs.

View critter vegetation population only, a quick variation of this project with no critters.


jtarbell, September 2002
commercial free open source since 2012 spread the love