Pictogenesis: The Idea


I don’t know if I ever actually posted it publically, but one of the ideas I’ve had percolating for the longest time is combining tiny interpreters and genetic algorithms to make generative art.

The basic idea is to generate programs (in various styles) that can take x,y coordinates and return colors. Then apply that to every pixel on an image to make generative art. Once we have, figure out a way to mutate/breed the programs so that we can apply a genetic algorithm to them and make awesome images! Sort of like Electric Sheep (that brings back memories).

The evolution point of view was actually a pretty tricky problem, since programs can have a number of different representations. I could compile them to bytecode and mutate that, but how do I make most code at least potentially meaningful?


Backtracking Worm Coral

Let’s take yesterday’s Worm Coral and turn it up to 11!

Now we have:

  • Whenever a worm gets stuck, it will ‘backtrack’: it will instead expand from the previous position recursively

That means that the initial 10 worms should always be able to fill the entire world! Even if one closes off an area, that one can eventually fill it up:

I like how occiasionally you get one spindly bit (usually early in the run) that another goes through. It reminds me of Blokus It does take a while.

In addition, I wanted to play a bit with simulationism:

  • Worms can potentially changeColor each frame
  • Every framesPerGeneration check if each worm dies deathChance or spawns a child worm (spawnChance)
  • If a worm dies, it is removed from the simulation
  • If a worm spawns, it creates a new child at it’s current location
    • If spawnIncludesHistory is set, the child can backtrack into the parent’s history
    • If spawnVariesColor is set, the child will (potentially, it’s random) have a slightly different color

Let’s check it out!


Worm Coral

Today, I’m going to work on using worms to generate coral, similar to what I did way back when I was generating omnichromatic images.

In a nutshell:

  • Spawn n worms
  • On each tick:
    • Each worm tries to randomly move one direction
    • If it cannot, increment that worm’s stuck counter
    • If it can, restart the stuck counter
    • If a worm is stuck long enough, kill it off and spawn a new worm

Eventually, we’ll fill the entire space with colors that end up looking a bit like coral. I’ll probably extend this later, since there are a lot of cool tweaks you can do with this general idea.


p5js Boids

Okay, sketch 2: Boids!

The basic idea is to create a bunch of particles (the Boids in this case) and apply to them each a series of simple, limited rules that rely neither on communcation between the Boids nor a global controller and see what behaviors you can generate. Specifically, can you replicate the flocking behavior found in birds, since birds can obviously fly together without hitting one another and also without some lead bird giving orders.

Something like this:

For this case, there are three rules:

  • seperation - Fly away from any Boids that are too close to you (to avoid collision)
  • alignment - Align yourself to fly in the same direction as any Boids in your field of vision
  • cohesion - Fly towards the center point of the Boids you can see


p5js Worms

One thing that I’ve been hoping to get into a bit more is the idea of Generative Art. Essentially, use any of a wide variety of algorithms to generate art. To do that, and so that the art can be generated right in front of you in the browser, I’m going to use the p5js library. It gives you a nice API of graphical primitives and takes a simple setup and draw function and does the rest.