Evolution-Assisted Design by Computers
"Applications of biological evolution in the field of design"
Evolution has often been considered Nature's most powerful problem solver. Indeed, through the steps of variation, selection, and inheritance, the gradual changes of characteristics in living organisms have produced incredible adaptations. Most often exceeding the designs of man in terms of complexity, flexibility, and performance, the powerful process of evolution has become an important part of engineering. However, it has not impacted the field of design the same way. Why is this so? The long story in short; due to the unquantifiable nature of aesthetics and the quality of a design, it is impossible (at least for now) to automate the process of selection. Therefore, the designer is an indispensable part of the process of design.
For my Master's practical project, I decided to explore the creation of a tool that could harness the powers of evolution to aid the designer in his/her task. The tool's role is to handle a population of designs that contain virtual DNA. These designs are then mutated and presented to the designer. The designer may then score the various adaptations and in doing so, the evolutionary process readjusts its course and produces more of the desired outcomes. The cycle then repeats and the designs evolve further towards the wanted goal.
The final set up was comprised of three example projects. One meant to evolve sound, one to evolve a typography, and one to evolve 3D printable meshes. Each containing their own difficulties, the point was to explore the potential benefits and difficulties of the application of evolution in considerably different domains.
In the creation of these three projects, the process of Evolution-Assisted Design appeared quite clearly and it is now relatively simple to create new evolving designs thanks to the creation of a modular system. Interestingly, the whole evolutionary process ends up not being limited by the computer, but rather by the designer and by the way in which the creator of the virtual species allows it to evolve.