Evolutionary Swarm Design: How Can Swarm-based Systems Help to Generate and Evaluate Designs?

By Sebastian von Mammen, Scott Novakowski, Gerald Hushlak and Christian Jacob.

Published by The Design Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

We propose swarm computing as the central paradigm that can lead to new approaches towards design. Design is seen as an unfolding process, defined through mathematical rules and algorithms, instead of static descriptions of building blocks. We introduce s warm grammars as an algorithmic aid for design tasks, where we integrate bio-inspired computational developmental models with evolutionary breeding and utilization of emergent phenomena. Swarm grammars allow intuitive, graphical and universally applicable modeling of multi-agent systems. We present evolutionary breeding techniques as examples of how to direct automated or semi-automated development of design solutions. This approach utilizes the autonomy of swarm systems through their emerging interaction processes and dares the designer to surrender total control over the design process. The computational design world, in which the designer acts like a breeder, becomes a design partner, which encourages a vivid dialogue between the swarm design system and the human designer. We further argument, that despite proclamations of the “death of theory”, the focus of design is merely shifting towards framing the respective design challenges into formalized mathematical models. Evolving and unfolding processes are accessed through simple entry points; results are promoted or demoted through interactivity on a multitude of levels. We demonstrate our first steps in the direction of such a new approach for design and discuss its consequences and challenges.

Keywords: Swarm Design, Evolutionary Design, Algorithmic Design, Virtual Worlds, Decentralized Systems for Design, Rule-based Developmental Systems, Swarm Grammars, Agent-based Modeling, Computational Developmental Models, Scripting, Optimization

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.371-386. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.850MB).

Sebastian von Mammen

PhD Student, Computer Science, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Sebastian von Mammen received his Diploma degree in Computer Science at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany in 2005. He is about to finish a PhD in Computer Science at the University of Calgary, Canada. Together with Christian Jacob, he developed and formalized swarm grammars, a swarm-inspired, multi-agent-based developmental representation. Swarm grammars integrate the productivity of computational developmental models with highly dynamic interaction networks. Sebastian von Mammen has been exploring swarm grammar structures that lend themselves to architecture and art. He has conducted experiments to foster complexity in the corresponding emergent processes and structures, and he has been investigating various means to promote evolutionary computation for automatizing digital creativity and design.

Scott Novakowski

Research Associate, Department of Computers Science, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Scott Novakowski received his degree in Computer Science at the University of Calgary in 2006. He implemented and provided major contributions to numerous interactive swarm art installations and guided the production cycles of digital art by the artist Gerald Hushlak. Since his graduation Scott Novakowski has been employed by the Medical Faculty of the University of Calgary to develop distributed multi-agent-based bio-medical simulations. His expertise lies in the fields of digital creativity and arts, swarm systems, evolutionary computation and hardware-oriented programming.

Prof. Gerald Hushlak

Professor, Art, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

After completing an MFA from the Royal College of Art, London, UK, Gerald Hushlak took up a position at the University of Calgary in 1977 that has acted as the platform for his cross-disciplinary work in art and computer science. He exhibits mural size paintings in museums, builds rapid prototype sculpture defined in a three dimensional modeling package titled Cinema 4-D, and plots large Giclee printed drawings 36”x 50” derived from our own evolutionary computing software. In collaboration with Christian Jacob and Jeffrey Boyd, professors in medicine and computing science, he has created audience driven interactive computer installations using evolutionary computing. The cutting edge art technology journal Leonardo featured their interactive work as a cover story in the summer of 2007. Since the beginning of his art career professor Hushlak has participated in 40+ one-person exhibitions in public museums and art galleries. In the last five years he and his colleagues have presented installations, or hardcopy deriving from the installations, in more than a dozen exhibitions in different public galleries including: U of C Nickel Arts Museum, U of Valencia, Spain Art Gallery, Banff Center, University of Arizona Art Gallery, New York Museum of Science and Technology, Convention Center Victoria, and over a dozen public exhibitions galleries across England as part of a traveling exhibition. SwarmArt, the name Hushlak and his colleagues have given to this interactive visualization process, has been screened on Discovery Channel many times.

Dr. Christian Jacob

Associate Professor, Computer Science, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Christian Jacob received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany. In July 1999, he joined the Department of Computer Science (Faculty of Science) at the University of Calgary. Since August 2003, he also holds a joint appointment with the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology (Faculty of Medicine), where he is the Director of Bioinformatics in the Bachelor of Health Sciences Program. He leads the Evolutionary & Swarm Design (E&SD) research group of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. His research group is investigating how to apply evolutionary, swarm and collective intelligence techniques in various application domains. So far, the E&SD research group has built mathematical models, computer simulations and visualizations of traffic systems, army ants, neuron growth, biomolecular systems, gene regulatory systems, and swarm architectures. Some of the projects are described in detail at the ESD website: http://www.swarm-design.org. Christian Jacob has written two books on evolutionary computing and natural programming paradigms: Principia Evolvica (dpunkt, Heidelberg, 1997; in German) and Illustrating Evolutionary Computation with Mathematica (Morgan Kaufmann, San Francisco, 2001).

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