Fang Talks

A post a day keeps the doctor away!

Or: why can a group of moving dots still appear cute.

The lecture we got yesterday on pathfinding and AI behavior in groups was super interesting. Something that really stuck with me was this video that he showed us, about some guy who made what he called “boids”, presumably a play on “birds”. They’re very simple units with very simple behavior. They move in a certain direction, try to fly with the nearby “boids” and attempt to avoid obstacles. Some steering noise was added in for a more natural look, but it’s still very simple behavior, right?

Then why is it that the demo had me going “aww, they’re actually kinda cute”? Maybe it’s because I’m a huge sucker for this kind of stuff? Undoubtable. But I think there’s something else going on here. Something about how the human mind interprets behavior of other entities. As a species, we’re really good at sympathy, putting ourselves in other people’s shoes. Sometimes exaggerating that to the point where we’re making stuff up!

I don’t think it’s all that much of a stretch to say we recognize the behavior of our age-old animal companions in these simple AIs. They don’t show us anything about themselves other than their simple behavior (not that there is much else to show), yet in our minds that’s already enough to see them as more than just a computer program, even if that feeling of “they look so sweet” is really subtle.

At least half the class went “aww look at that one” when one “boid” flew around on his own for a while. Pretty powerful conveyance, isn’t it?
~ Fang


  • 15/02/2016 (3:55 PM)

    God damn those boids sound adorable. My guess would be it’s a mix of “bird” and “android/droid”. Your eyes see a little dot moving around but your brain and heart interpret it as so much more.

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