Computer Evolution: Entoform Designer’s Crowdsourcing Campaign


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Entoform Creator Dolf Veenvliet

Artist, entrepreneur, and computer programmer Dolf Veenvliet, also known by his online identity, “Macouno,” has created a new virtual life-form. Macouno’s creations, called Entoforms, are modeled using a combination of open-source software applications, including scripts he has written himself. Macouno is currently financing an Entoform exhibition in Amsterdam’s Walls Gallery through an IndieGoGo crowdsourcing campaign.

In an exclusive interview with Decoded Science, the creator of these computer-modeled bugs that combine technology with artistry, had this to say about the world of Entoform creation:

Decoded Science: Where did you get the idea for this process?

Macouno: I’m actually not entirely sure… I think a big part of it was the way I have been working with the software of my choice lately. I use Blender 3D for almost all of my projects. And since Blender 2.5 came out last year we can use its Python API (think of it as a way to reprogram the software) to make Blender do things on its own as if you’re manually using it. So, in a way, I’ve been writing software that makes the computer build things the way I would. Slowly I’m teaching the computer to make the Entoforms the way I would do it, but to make its own decisions.

Decoded Science: How long did it take for you to develop the Entoform language?

Macouno: The concept for the basic decision making didn’t take long to develop at all. The code is really simple, which is a good sign! I probably wrote that in a few hours. The consequences of using a system that can choose from a nearly infinite combination of options, however simple it may be… are a bit larger though.

Decoded Science: How long does it take you to program the creation of a new feature?

Macouno: A very easy way to track my new features is by checking the videos I’ve been posting on Youtube. Every generation is basically a new major feature (and a bunch of bug fixes) in the software. For instance generation 32 is when I first introduced color, and generation 40 is the first one with basic eyes. I think I can do at most 2 generations in a week, but that’s when I’m not out teaching somewhere for instance.

Decoded Science: Can you visualize any practical uses for this technology?

Macouno: So far, everyone I’ve talked to about the project has been really positive, and it seems to be sparking ideas in everyone I tell about it. This is perhaps its most important contribution. Inspiration is, I think, the best thing I have on offer right now; let the practical uses result from that… maybe not directly from what I make.

Entoforms Created with Python API on Blender 3D

The base of the Entoform creation model is a free, open-source software called Blender, which allows artists to model three-dimensional sculptures on a computer. In addition, Macouno uses scripts he has written in Python API (Application Programmer’s Interface) to create unique creatures based on a set of predetermined specifications. He then prints out the creation on a 3D Printer to create a finished product.

Computer-Based Evolution and Pseudo-DNA

“Decoded Science” Entoform: Image courtesy Dolf Veenvliet

The system used to design each individual Entoform uses a string of letters to determine the unique characteristics of the piece. Once the Entoform has been named, Macouno’s scripts translates the letters in the name to come up with a design. Each letter corresponds to a feature, and results in a change in the appearance of the design. The overall result: a unique design for each name, such as the “Decoded Science” Entoform that you see here. The ability to randomly generate unique combinations of characteristics based on this pseudo-DNA model may provide advances in other areas, but for now the Entoform software model is for entertainment only.

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