Thursday, July 5, 2007

Racing a swarm

Okay, this is one of the more interesting online videos I have seen of late. Not only is it an extremely well edited video, with a soundtrack that accompanies the animation and setting an intriguing mood for this demo.

Which brings us to what this actually is... a demo, to be sure, of what is possible in the application of swarm theory with simulated semi-realistic phenomenon. It reminds me of the swarm theories explored by Kas Oosterhuis, but in this case a process as viewed through the lens of a video game.

Although I was extremely skeptical of Oosterhuis' design methodology when reading about his ideas and seeing the videos of the application of his formulas that are used to transform a mathematically descriptive function, this video really hit home as to its potential applications.

What is rather interesting about this is how video games are typically used to closely represent reality as much as possible, sticking to what is essentially a very lifelike and conservative physics modeling and representation of reality.

Yet this experiment in swarm behavior, in applying these kinds of rules to a car race creates a dramatic new reality, in which its primary purpose is to represent and illustrate the resultant forces that are present in the algorithm that make up the programming inherent in the swarm demo itself. Ie, the paths the cars take show us the paths of least resistance present in the computer program - in an extremely visceral way.

Perhaps this kind of methodology could be applied to architecture more (sans the motion), where the building itself describes the complex and myriad forces present. And it need not only be limited to physical forces: there are social, geographic, tectonic, and contextual. After all, one of the defining characteristics of modern society is the plasticity in our dynamic world.

Of course, we already are seeing this kind of design from designers and products such as Greg Lynn and Marcel Wanders' Carbon Chair.

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