The computer programming behind a streaming video art installation which will never repeat itself may have wider application in games or film.
The live stream of Infinity played out online for two weeks last month. Rather than playing in a loop, the video’s parade of digitally created colorful characters was created to continually shape shift and move (run, skip, dawdle) — ostensibly for eternity.
It’s the work of Universal Everything, a UK-based “remote-working collective of digital artists, experience designers and future makers.”
A “world’s first,” as described by the studio in a press release, the video is composed entirely by generative technology, where an infinite number of characters walks across the screen, showing their unique personalities that have all been devised in code. Their characteristics have been based on people and elements from fashion and nature, producing an endless gallery of unique personalities.
The video can be still be viewed on the Universal Everything website which also displays, in the bottom left-hand-side corner, the number of characters that have been generated, and each given individual names such as Miss Dungy, Miss Clementi and Mx Radovich.
Generative design is a design exploration process. According to Autodesk, designers or engineers input design goals into the generative design software, along with parameters such as performance or spatial requirements, materials, manufacturing methods, and cost constraints.
“Each character is a random combination of parameters but crafted within aesthetic rules we directed,” explains Matt Pyke, the founder of Universal Everything, at Fast Company. “To use generative design means designing the seed.”
The seed began with a coding system that grew simulated hair onto motion capture data. The designers then observed the wide variety of figures that ensued and shaped characters by simulating — then randomizing — colors, hairstyles, and gaits. Soon enough, “an endless parade of personalities emerged,” Pyke says. “It is our role as designers to craft the rules of the seed to ensure every outcome feels alive and natural.”
Can viewers interact with the parade of characters and influence their behaviors and style? Can body-tracking cameras capture people’s movements and let them become part of the parade? The gaming industry is a clear contender for generative technology — Pyke even suggests “unique video game characters for every user.”
The studio is currently experimenting with different versions of the film for public spaces and venues.
Creative Director for the film was Matt Pyke, with Unity developer Adam Samson and sound by Simon Pyke.
“We love the idea of infinite storytelling,” Pyke says. “Just a world that exists forever.”