Combine Science and Arts to unravel evolution

The 60-year old Dutch artist Theo Jansen builds gigantic structures that can walk over the beach of The Netherlands. The way he does this is very unique, in that he uses a genetic algorithm to design the best set-up. What this means is that he does not type any code himself, but let the robots walk over the beach and let them combine the best options to find one that is even better, similar as in evolution.

Let’s see how this looks:

All of these creations are made of 375 plastic tubes, costing only 10cents per meter, making it very light and inexpensive. It is held together by cables, nylon strings and adhesive tape. By trial and error the ideal settings are found to walk as stable as possible over the windy beach. All of the creations are driven by energy from the wind.

The first creations were simulated in a computer program, before building the first real one. These required a lot of tuning (through genetic learning) before they were able to stand. Next versions had to learn how to deal with the strong wind.

This way he has designed a new nature, that is able to evolve using survival of the fittest. Eventually he wants a large number of these creatures walking around on the beach, interacting with eachother, without his interference.

More information about Jansen see his website


2 Responses to “Combine Science and Arts to unravel evolution”

  1. 1 Elin
    19 February, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    These contraptions are fabulous. If they are so light, how come they don’t blow away with the winds that power them?

  2. 2 Koen
    19 February, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    The first generation was not able to handle these strong wind. Especially because they are so light, this is a big problem. Eventually a generation appeared that would hammer themselves into the ground when a big wind was coming in. Later generations learned to put there nose down into ground. They also learn how to use the wind in their advantage to stay on the ground stably. The idea is that through evolutionary learning, the fittest options remains and gets exploited and changed to maybe improve.

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