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13 FEBRUARY 2015

The Creepy Collective Behavior of Boston Dynamics' New Robot Dog

"Robotics company Boston Dynamics has a new four–legged addition to its family: a 160–pound quadruped named Spot...

We know from Spot's reaction to that kick that he can dynamically correct his stability–behavior that's modeled after biological systems. From what Couzin can tell, the robots' collective movement is an organic outgrowth of that self–correction. When the two Spots collide at the 1:25 mark, they're both able to recover quickly from the nudge and continue on their route up the hill. 'But the collision does result in them tending to align with one another (since each pushes against the other),' Couzin wrote in an email. 'That can be an important factor: Simple collisions among individuals can result in collective motion.'

In Couzin's research on locusts, for example, the insects form plagues that move together by just barely avoiding collisions. 'Recently, avoidance has also been shown to allow the humble fruit fly to make effective collective decisions,' he wrote.

It doesn't look like Spot is programmed to work with his twin brothers and sisters–but that doesn't matter if their coordination emerges naturally from the physical rules that govern each individual robot. Clearly, bumping into each other isn't the safest or most efficient way to get your robot army to march in lock step, but it's a good start. And it's relatively easy to imagine several Spots working together in organized ways if the LIDAR sensors fitted on their 'heads' were programmed to create avoidance behaviors–like those locusts–rather than simply reacting to collisions.

Spot's life–like motions are uncanny, but when you add this emergent, collective behavior–which can sometimes be unpredictable–the possibilities get downright scary. Will Spot's group dynamics stop at the point of swarming like locusts? (Ominous.) Will they cluster into self–protecting balls like sardines? (Less so.) Or could they end up as smart and responsive as humans?

Couzin goes so far as to call this bump–and–grind between Spots One and Two a social interaction. 'No matter how primitive, there's no doubt that these interactions could enhance the decision–making capabilities of such robots when they must make their own, autonomous, decisions in an uncertain world,' he wrote. We'll just have to hope that decision–making involves not trampling us when a pack of Spots starts stampeding like wildebeest."

(Neel V. Patel, 11 February 2015 Wired News)

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2015animal locomotionartificial lifeautomataautonomous creature • avoidance behaviour • biological systems • Boston Dynamics • bumping • collective animal behavior • collective behaviour • collective decisions • collective motion • collective movement • collision detection • decision-making capabilitiesdogfruit flyherd • Iain Couzin • LIDARlocomotionmechanical being • nudge • physical rules • quadruped • robot army • robot dog • robot machinesrobotic creaturerobotics • self-correction • social interactionspeculative engineering • Spot (robot) • stabilityswarming • swarming locusts • walkingWired (magazine) • Wired News

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
14 NOVEMBER 2014

Oasis: a virtual pond of synthetic life forms

"A surface covered with black sand turns into a pool full of life when people grab and remove a handful of sand away. In this micro–world, virtual creatures are born, live and perish.They recognize their spatial boundaries and obstacles of living and respond to peoples' touch in various ways.

A real–time computer vision engine has been developed to interpret the physical status of diverse materials of the installation. The program populates creatures with various characteristics and controls their behaviors in real–time. A swarm intelligence has been implemented to simulate the flocking behaviors of the creatures and their life–like motions.

The Oasis is not a device invented for people to 'use'. It's a playful space where people feel nature, find life forms, interact with and create virtual worlds. It elicits peoples' basic instincts to touch natural materials."

(Yunsil Heo and Hyunwoo Bang)

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2008automata • black sand • computer vision • create virtual worlds • creaturesfish pondflocking algorithmflocking behaviour • Hyunwoo Bang • life forms • micro-world • natural materials • Oasis (2008) • OpenGLorganismplayful space • pond • poolProcessing (software)simulated environment • spatial boundaries • surfaceswarm behaviour • swarm intelligence • swarmingswimming • synthetic life forms • synthetic-lifetangible interfacetangible interfaces • tangible visual interface • touchvirtual creatures • Yunsil Heo

CONTRIBUTOR

Anna Troisi
20 JULY 2014

Mechnical sound works from commonplace industrial objects

"The sound sculptures and installations of Zimoun are graceful, mechanized works of playful poetry, their structural simplicity opens like an industrial bloom to reveal a complex and intricate series of relationships, an ongoing interplay between the 'artificial' and the 'organic'. It's an artistic research of simple and elegant systems to generate and study complex behaviors in sound and motion. Zimoun creates sound pieces from basic components, often using multiples of the same prepared mechanical elements to examine the creation and degeneration of patterns."

(Statements about Zimoun: Tim Beck http://www.zimoun.net/about.html)

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acoustic hum • artistic research • Bern • cacophony • chaotic forces • commonplace industrial objects • commonplace objects • complex behaviours • elegant systems • functional materials • generative systems • hum • industrial objects • installation artintricacykinetic sculpturekinetic sound sculpture • lifeless matter • mechanical rhythmmechanism • mechnical sound works • minimalist art • minimalist constructions • multiples • noise • ordered system • orderly patternspatternprimitive oscillatorsquasi autonomous creaturesrepetitionrhythm oscillator • rhythmic pattern • robotic artroboticsrule systemsimple rules • sonic chaos • sound and motion • sound artsound artistsound installationsound pieces • sound production • sound sculpture • sound works • structural simplicity • swarm behaviourswarming • synthetic structures • visual chaos • Zimoun

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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