Saturday, May 16, 2015

Cloudy Conway

I like twitter bots. Did you know that there's a sizable amount of twitter bots generating pictures algorithmically?

There's @fractweet , for example, keeps posting random mandelbrot pictures. Some of them can be pretty nice.

Another of my favorites is @greatartbot, it plays an art game by itself and posts the results. This generates a ton of colorful random pixel art.

A good thing about these twitter bots is they just work without your supervision and without you even remembering to run them. They keep making random pictures and posting them in twitter. When they have a following, there's even humans that can curate the resulting pictures for you.

I wanted to make some random art bot of my own. The big problem with these things is, if the method to generate them is too random and not interesting, the results will be a mess. If it is not random enough , the results might be very pretty but usually the same. You need some good balance.

Something that seems to generate hard-to-predict randomness that looks nice is Conway's game of life. So I wondered how to use its randomness for my silly at bot objective. Okay, most of the times you put a bunch of random live cells in a Conway simulation the eventual result looks like this:

But the interesting part is all the movement that results in this rather stable state. There's a good example in this page:

So I made a program, basically besides of the state of the cells, it also remembers the number of iterations that passed since each cell died. So we know the last iteration number in which each cell alive. Live cells have 0 in this value. So imagine that the total number of iterations was T. And the number of iterations a cell has been dead is X, if we divide X by T, we will get a number from 0 to 1. Now we will assign a different shade of gray to each cell. If the cell's value was 0, it would be black, if the value was 1, it would be white, but if the value was 0.5, it would be neutral gray...

It seems like a bunch of clouds. Apparently not very impressive. But to me this was perfect because it generates strange shapes and shades. We just need to add color. To add color, we turn this gray shade from 0.0 to 1.0 into a color spectrum. For example, let's make 0.0 Red, 0.5 Green and 1.0 Blue. This way 0.25 is Yellow and 0.75 is... a bluer green, I guess. This spectrum trick is what the Mandelbrot fractal from fractweet up there uses. Mandelbrot fractals are basically a fraud: All the beauty comes not from math but from picking colors for the values...

And this is really all of it. Just making different random choices for the number of colors in the spectrum and the initial live cells. Maybe also experiment with different sizes of Conway grids. Some additional parameters too. The result is a program that can generate fairly interesting pictures... A twitter bot that goes by the name @CloudConway.

So my first objective of making a twitter bot seems accomplished. But I think there's more to this whole method of generating interesting shapes from Conway's game of life. In the meantime, I plan to release source code for this bot when the code stops being embarrassing...

1 comment :

Stanley said...

Gratefful for sharing this