Scientists build a world of 'software beings'

Researchers in Europe are near to launching a project aimed at studying how artificial beings interact.

Politicians could one day determine the results of elections before they take place, thanks to a European research project that will study social interactions between millions of virtual human beings.

Five European universities are collaborating on the New Ties project, where they plan to create millions of "software beings" (human beings that live in computers) with the goal of studying how they interact and evolve.

The software beings don't have names, but they do have distinct characteristics, including gender, life expectancy, size and metabolism. Their traits will be passed on as they reproduce, but they'll also be able to learn and gain new characteristics.

Two thousand artificial beings have been created so far in a single computer, but the goal is to create a grid or cluster of computers to host potentially millions of them, said Gusz Eiben, a professor of computer science at Vrije Universiteit in the Netherlands and the project's leader.

Plenty of research has been done into artificial intelligence, but that research hasn't focused on how artificial beings interact, he said. The results of the research could be applied to several fields.

"You could use this for engineering robot collectives," he said. "We could tell them how to engineer the minds of a group of robots in such a way that the group as a total would behave in a desirable way."

Sociologists, anthropologists and politicians could also use the research to simulate reactions to events. "If we'd had this already calibrated on a large scale, so you could have a good model simulation of Europe, we wouldn't have needed a referendum about the European Constitution," Eiben joked.

Game developers could also use the technology, to create more intelligent characters that learn and adapt. "Giving intelligence to them would make the games more challenging," he said.

The researchers will discover how the beings learn and interact by studying "decision trees" that represent their minds. The trees will show things like priorities, such as whether a being thinks food is more important than sex, Eiben said. The researchers will watch how they learn language, work together to find and store food, and distinguish between friend and foe.

Eiben and his colleagues at the University of Surrey in the U.K., Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, Napier University in Edinburgh and Tilburg University in The Netherlands, have struggled with various aspects of the project, including building the grid computer. Instead, the researchers may ultimately use a cluster architecture, Eiben said.

Even the current system, housed on just one computer, has problems with slowness and memory leaks. But Eiben hopes that many of those problems will be solved in about a month when the researchers expand the project and begin to study the social interactions of the software beings.

The universities received a Euro 1.6 million (US$2 million) grant from the European Commission for the project, which began in September 2004 and is scheduled to run until September 2007.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?