The Weekly Kickstarter: Help Give Birth to Virtual Life

Computer scientist, Steve Grand, is one of the top minds currently working in the field of artificial intelligence. His past efforts have offered modern observers fascinating insights into the realities of creating new lifeforms through explorations as diverse as teaching a robot orangutan basic language and the development of an AI life simulation in the "videogame", Creatures. This week's featured Kickstarter allows anyone to back Grand's latest work, an ambitious project that is aimed at nothing less than the birth of a new, artificial lifeform.

Computer scientist, Steve Grand, is one of the top minds currently working in the field of artificial intelligence. His past efforts have offered modern observers fascinating insights into the realities of creating new lifeforms through explorations as diverse as teaching a robot orangutan basic language and the development of an AI life simulation in the “videogame”, Creatures. This week’s featured Kickstarter allows anyone to back Grand’s latest work, an ambitious project that is aimed at nothing less than the birth of a new, artificial lifeform.

The Grandroids project is, in many ways, a spirtual successor to the work that Grand accomplished with 1996’s Creatures, his best known work in AI development. Using the lessons learned through Creatures and his seminal experiments with robotic intelligence during the intervening years, Grand is now hoping to achieve something that surpasses even his previous, groundbreaking projects.

Grandroids takes 15 years of study in creating artificial life and distills it into a computer application that allows users to monitor and interact with a “real” alien. These Grandroid aliens are constructed from the foundation up with programming that replicates actual (and highly complex) nervous systems, genetic structures, brain cells and biochemical reactions. Grand’s advanced, virtual beings — because they exist as digital lifeforms and not scripted, game-like intellignce — are capable of learning, becoming sick from hereditary ailments and developing their own, individual behavioral traits.

The Grandroid project will give users a variety of 3D environments, alien species and tools for monitoring and caring for the digital beings. Grand has stated that this phase of Grandroid is only the first of what he hopes is a long-running experiment. Further improvements to the application would introduce more aliens, expanded environments for them to interact with and additions to the user interface that caters to highly involved study of the creatures. Initial versions of Grandroid simulations will be made available for Mac and PC computers while mobile support is intended for later releases.

It all sounds a lot like science-fiction but that’s often the case with the most exciting ideas. Grand has proved before that he’s capable of following through on nearly unbelievable premises and, with adequate funding, Grandroids should prove to be no different.

Contributions to the Grandroids Kickstarter project will go toward providing Grand with the support he needs to follow through on his work without selling off aspects of it to commercial videogame publishers. In order to reap the best possible results for the study, Grand is requesting assistance in the form of the money he needs to tend to living expenses and research and development costs during the estimated 12 months of devotion that the project will require.

For more information on Grand’s past and present work, check out his personal blog or follow these links for a feature on Lucy, the AI orangutan (apologies in advance for the nightmares) and an interview about his career.

To contribute to Steve Grand’s Grandroids, head on over to the Kickstarter project page by clicking here. Grandroids has a $27,000 goal and will be funded on Friday, April 8th at 2.18pm EST.