The University of Sussex

Creatures: artificial life autonomous software agents for home entertainment

Stephen Grand, Dave Cliff, Anil Malhotra

This paper gives a technical description of Creatures, a commercial home-entertainment software package. Creatures provides a simulated environment in which exist a number of synthetic agents that a user can interact with in real-time. The agents (known as 'creatures') are intended as 'virtual pets'. The internal architecture of the creatures is inspired by animal biology. Each creature has a neural network responsible for sensory-motor coordination and behavior selection, and an 'artificial biochemistry' that models a simple energy metabolism along with a 'hormonal' system that interacts with the neural network to model diffuse modulation of neuronal activity and staged octogenetic development. A Hebbian learning mechanism allows the neural network to adapt during the lifetime of a creature. Additionally, both the network architecture and details of the biochemistry for a creature are specified by a variable-length 'genetic' encoding, allowing for evolutionary adaptabion through sexual reproduction. Creatures, available on Windows95 and Macintosh platforms from late 1996, offers users an opportunity to engage with Artificial Life technologies. In addition to describing technical details, this paper concludes with a discussion of the scientific implications of the system.

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