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Updates on Artificial Life
Emily Gertz, 10 Dec 04

Although it creeps me out to even type about this, it's pretty interesting: an international scientific team has created microrobotic roaches (and poultrybots) to study collective intelligence and behavior. They've managed to trick real roaches into joining the roboroach group via artificial roach smells. The New York Times article mentions "controlling the behavior of animals" (such as the mass panic reactions of chickens), improving robotic and computer performance, and military applications of "swarm technology" as eventual goals of the research.

Meanwhile, as Ally #1 Bruce Sterling blogged last week, the Life 7.0 jury in Madrid chose four winners from a shortlist of 60 as the best in "artworks that utilise artificial life concepts and techniques." Tied for first:

Spore 1.1 by American Doug Easterly, a plant purchased at Home Depot and ingeniously connected to the Internet to check on Home Depot's stock price. The value of the stock determined whether or not the plant got automatically watered. "The underlined paradox is that Home Depot guarantees the well being of the plant for one year and, if the plant dies due to either falling or rising share values it has to be replaced by the multinational, a contract relating life and death."

Universal Whistling Machine, by Canadian collaborators Marc Böhlen and JT Rinker, "a tone-based based interpreter of whistles. Using advanced signal-processing computation -- similar to the chips in mobile phones -- their system can extract whistles from other sounds, and can exchange passages with humans, each other, and even animals...[W]hat looks at first like a simple process becomes ever more interesting, a technical mocking bird [like those automated 'customer service' systems that make you yell gibberish into the phone to find out your flight time or balance due--eg] that’s either mimicking or earnestly trying to communicate. "

Check out the whole competition.

The jury also made a special mention of Critical Art Ensemble, the biotech-critiquing art collective which has been the target of federal harassment and indictment under "anti-terrorism" laws (as mentioned by Natalie Jeremijenko in her WorldChanging interview).

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