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Online Examples of Artificial Life

written by: Emma Lloyd • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 7/31/2008

Artificial life is a fascinating but complex subject. Checking out some of these online examples of artificial life "games" can shed some light on how the concept works, and the types of applications for which it can be used.

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    The concept of giving inanimate or artificial objects some semblance of life—or more simply put, the field of artificial life—has fascinated us for centuries, but it’s only with the advent of the computer that the field has really taken off.

    Artificial life is a fascinating subject, and it’s even more so when you can see it in action. Even a simple cellular automaton, based on the Game of Life created by Professor John Conway in the 1960s, can hold the attention for quite a while.

    There are many examples of artificial life “games” available on the internet. Here’s a small sample of what you can find.

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    John Conway’s Game of Life

    Here are six sites which include versions and variations on John Conway’s Game of Life. The game itself is mostly the same, but each site offers something unique, in either the game or in extras on the site. They’re all worth a look!

    1. A simple but effective version of the original Game of Life can be found here. Watch pre-set patterns develop, or create your own.

    1. The Game of Life, in color—two different versions of the game can be found here. This one is particularly interesting since the site owner has included a sort of two-player game (whereas Conway’s original version is a zero-player game) which two people can play, and attempt to build a colony which can survive attacks from the other.

    1. A Game of Life simulation which includes a download and source code can be found here.

    1. Colorful visual representations of one-dimensional cellular automata, a large and fascinating Game of Life which adds the element of color into the mix, and a visual demonstration of the relationship between animal skin patterns and the Game. Fun with Cellular Automata.

    1. A place to view persistent patterns created by the Game of Life. Game of Life Visual Exhibition.

    1. This one is interesting mainly because it includes links to downloadable cellular automaton programs, and a link to the original article about the game, published in 1970 in Scientific American. Read it here.
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    Other Artificial Life Sites

    Artificial Planet is more of a virtual world than an artificial life simulation, but it’s still interesting in that it allows you to create and observe a dynamic ecosystem. It’s particularly interesting because—in the site’s own words—this program “may have been one of the first to simulate a physical advantage in an evolving artificial life via ‘natural’ selection.”

    Firefly Sanctuary bills itself as “an artificial life simulation based on subsumption architecture and genetic algorithms.” Choose how many fireflies, predators, and food sources to start off with in your firefly colony, and watch it grow (or die!).

    Lotus Artificial Life has half a dozen or so different artificial life simulations. These ones are a little more difficult to operate and understand but are definitely worth the extra time. The site includes a simulation of the evolution of sex, and several simulations with self-replicating organisms.