In the labs today I was amused to glimpse a dragon on the island next to a squirrel. There was an acorn beside the dragon labelled "squirrel bate". I began to have a bad feeling about the poor squirrel, and further investigation revealed that -indeed- the squirrel is programmed to be lured towards the acorn where it will get crunched up by the dragon. When I went back to get a screen shot, the squirrel was gone. Eaten? Does the dragon look guilty?
This example of virtual nature's cruelty was inspired by a class I did on artificial life (boids and such) where I was trying to inspire them to set up eco systems on the island, and explain the concept of emergence. You can see a video of my example cookie monster mating behaviour here: http://www.macs.hw.ac.uk/~judy/InteractiveSystems/cookimonster.avi. You can see the slides:
Download Class9.ppt if you are interested in the code. It is a very cool example of emergent behaviour - the monsters unexpectedly go mental and have loads of babies all in a row. It was a surprise to me when it happened when I was recording the screen cast.
At the moment the students are trying to get their pets' tails to wag. This turns out to be ridiculously hard in Second Life and requires more maths than is good for me (or the students). I had to come clean the other day and admit that I was still researching how to fix a problem with code to do rotations of linked prims. (If anyone know how to do this, let me know). There is a silver lining effect which is that three students have researched this for themselves and come up with three different but viable solutions which they have agreed to share with the class. There are some very nice examples of peer collaboration, self motivated research and applying knowledge from classes to new situations here. I will write these up a vignettes sometime, but in the mean time I have a frustrating weekend of trying to make a cat's tail twitch.