First and the Last reflects divergence and convergence in organic systems

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First and Last

First and the Last reflects divergence and convergence in organic systems.

The installation consists of audio-visual artificial worlds, from natural land-

scapes to fractal universes. Viewers can participate into worlds over internet

using computers or on site with phones or PDA by using avatars with limited life spans.

Avatars can move, propose and refuse to mate. By mixing and varying parent

characteristics the offspring extends avatar life and viewer participation time.

A Tower of Babbelon

A way to see this work is how it connects existing elements. The goal is not so much to invent all new things, but to compose a new meaningful whole of different elements so that they will complement each other in novel ways. There are already massively multi-player on-line roleplaying games (mmorpg), where people participate in different worlds. Also, there are public displays with which people can interact with using their mobile phones, also with game-like content (famously on TV). Furthermore, socially critical works and communities live on the net. We take a look at those areas, how we see their current state and why and how certain parts of them will take place in the installation.

Computer games are technologically at the forefront in both the quality of real-time visualisations and fluency of network interaction. Games like Unreal Tournament 2003 and EveOnline utilize recent advances in graphics cards and feature efficient servers where virtual worlds are hosted for the gamers. Additional tools, such as IRC and voice-over-IP (TeamSpeak etc.) make playing over a high-bandwidth computer network a very engaging experience. The content, i.e. gameplay, can be described as virtual sports. Perhaps similarly to traditional sports, the action is not in relation with things happening elsewhere/otherwise in the real world. In First and Last, such connections will be explored in two directions, as elaborated in the following.

Mobile phones (and PDAs) already outnumber the desktop computers and are increasingly doing so. They introduce originally computed-based applications such as information organizing, communication networks, media processing and games to many people who are not interested nor able to use more powerful, yet more cumbersome desktop computers.

However, there is a tendency to separate mobile services from similar, perhaps already existing ones in the stationary computing world. One clear and much discussed reason for this is of course the differing contexts and hence the needs of a mobile user. Another derives from the fact that on the Internet people are not used to pay, but over mobile phone networks the operators charge for each service. For example, e-mail does not cost per message sent (not to mention any length limits), whereas sending an mms does. Besides all that and other reasons for the separation (such as technical differences), it is known that same services can well be made usable from both stationary computers and mobile phones / PDAs. First and Last invites audience to participate in the same worlds in both ways. A social motivation for this is to try to connect computer gamers, often separated in their dedicated communities, with non-computer non-gamers, who might just be passing by the installation on the street.

An additional type of connection in the system is to other, external systems. In particular, common news / economic databases are mined to determine some variables, such as stock exchange indexes, currency exchange rates etc. Also, analogous to how physical sensors can read environmental information at the installation site, the condition of the network is monitored (e.g. the latency between First and Last main server and Whitehouse.Gov). These variables can be mapped to basically any features of the artificial worlds, but they may often be non-critical: e.g. dollar vs. euro determining wind direction, latency in the network the colour of the sky. These kinds of mappings, or ones to more trivial things, reflect how such strongly communicated (in case of economic figures) news in the mass media form and shape common consciousness about things that remain remote and seem irrelevant to actual actions of people in the everyday lives. Artistic expression is also a means to connect game worlds and entertaining virtual environments to information systems commonly used in boring everyday office work.

Finally, artificial life has already been demonstrated in different systems throughout the years, and we do not expect to make a (theoretical) breakthrough in that area - our implementation and use of evolutionary programming technologies will be innovative and esthetically motivated. For the sake of simplicity the idea is to limit the use of GA and GP constructs to proven and well-understood ones. We find that many basic ideas there are still new to most people and not that much is artistically explored. Also the applications in commercial games are rare and in their early form. Most importantly, we plan to contextualise them in intellectually and emotionally meaningful settings where artifacts communicate to people and people can learn to communicate with each other.

Why Isea?

1. Some of you guys sent one of us guys a request for proposal.

2. In Kyperjokki we have often enough discussed ideas compiled in here.

3. Building Kyperia needs all hands on deck and especially international audiences for its worlds to proliferate. We are especially interested in the 'mid-field' between traditional visual and musical arts and the modern game and club cultures.

4. We realize the enormity of building and developing a virtual community such as Kyperia. Setting up installations to it, like First and Last, is technically demanding and oftentimes beyond the capabilities and interests of local institutions.

5. In the words of a famous mountain climber, when asked why he climbed to the top: 'Because it was there'.

A never ending journey through worlds in Kyperia

The installation consists of a series of artificial worlds, ranging from videoscapes to fully abstract spaces (e.g. from natural landscapes to fractal universes) that represent the development of a fictional universe. We call them worlds. Viewers can participate in worlds remotely over the Internet from their personal computers or on site with suitable mobile devices. Installation can take place in any public place with high bandwidth internet access, enough room and facilities for projecting a view to the world. Viewers are given a basic selection of avatars that act as their agent s in worlds, each world has initially avatars matching its appearance. Avatars have limited lifespans but they can cross worlds when activated.

Basic possible user interactions are moving the avatar in four directions, proposing to mate and refusing a mating proposition. Mating, when accepted, replaces the parents with their offspring. Their appearances and properties are a crossover of the mated parents' and their lifespans are reset to full length. To simplify the odds of participants surviving a change of the worlds any two avatars can mate and get more game time by seeking to switch properties - i.e. evolve.

What's Behind the Curtain

All worlds put together form a virtual reality - Kyperia - that exists and lives in the web as a community site (network of sites in the future hopefully). Kyperia is divided into worlds that are represented by places - whatever is displayed on the big screen or computer display. Places are populated by props, tools and viewer or computer controlled agents - places have their associated soundscapes and other properties. On the display the agents are represented by avatars (micons, animations etc.); tools and props are basically represented as inanimate images. In Kyperia agents use tools to perform tasks and props pasted on a background form and decorate the place of a world for the viewer. Kyperia offers a more complex gameplaying interface for the computer user. For practical reasons (ease of use, minimal instructions etc.) the user interface for mobile on-site viewers is limited. More sophisticated mobile clients will be made available for later installations.

All of Kyperia is governed by the following rules. 1. The mating restriction with only two crossovered children. Mating rules and restriction with only two crossovered children apply at the time of this writing only to on-site remote controlled avatars. We have some ideas how to allow crossbreeding between Kyperia game-character type of agents and thin on-site mostly avatar entities but nothing to tell yet. 2. Agents can only exist in a place - no place like home (database), 3. they can move between places by permission. I.e. a place permits agents to enter, sometimes taxing the agent for permission. 4. Agent is always permitted to its birthplace without a fee. 5. On-site avatars have shorter individual lifespans than the total world lifetime is, in order to avoid stagnation into homogeneity. 6. If the produced children do not differ from their parents enough, their aging will speed up. 7. Individual worlds may extend and complement these locally as long as the global rules are not compromised or undermined.

Kyperia with its inhabitants is displayed for the installation audience. Kyperia is implemented with open source software and peer-to-peer networking in mind. We will welcome all simultaneous set-ups and development of new worlds as long as it does not interfere with the basic rules and, more importantly, requires from us only a download address with packages and installation instructions with some sample worlds. We aim to build an international virtual community so that when an installation such as First and Last is advertised, it will hopefully attract a multitude of Kyperia inhabitants. For example an intresting possibility is to have a band of webplayers' agents spontaneously play music live at the installation place.

Candidate Worlds for Public Display

In the age of tv reruns we circulate effectively 10-20 worlds continuously on the public display for the set-up period. Each world has seasons (scenarios, modes) that vary during its projection time creating dramatic suspenses and reliefs. Transitions from a world to another are subtle and may take up to half an hour of time.

* LogoWorld - what's going on with corporate fusions and brands, or monetary currencies

* RockfestivalWorld ( woodstockworld - and the bands just keep coming)

* PlantWorld, VehicleWorld, InsectWorld (or CrawlerWorld)

* SoundWorld

* FlyingWorld

o Paper Glider viewer guides a glider by tilting it in four directions, avoiding hazards and seeking thermals 15 minutes

o Flying Kites without strings 15 minutes.

o Snowflakes Are Dancing - all locally started avatars are snowflakes 15 minutes.

o Birds/Dinosaurs Flying realisation very scarce but strong (Hugo Pratt or similar) 15 minutes.

* PictureBookWorld (this will be purposefully clumsy in appearance)

o Ancient Egypt 10 minutes

o Ancient Rome 10 minutes

o Medieval Tournament 10 minutes

o "Pagan" Countries 10 minutes

* PoetryWorld (is populated by poetry reciting agents, viewers can send textmessages to poets or let their avatars recite)

o Ballads and minstrels

o Maximes and Haiku

o Concretist and futuristic poetry

o Beat Poetry

* PornWorld (all imagery is pornographic: places, props and avatars are pricks and pussies, dildos and other paraphernalia)

* MandelbrotWorld (places are mandelbroth sets, avatars are kinetic textures and visual illusions - also rich in sound)

o Avoid single cell game of life avalanches 10 minutes.

o Season of L-trees 15 minutes.

o Attracted by Lorenz animations users try to beat the pull of an attractor 10 minutes.

o Fly Like a Fractal, user flies a fractal spaceship in mandelbrot space(s) 15 minutes.

* LandscapeWorld where users hover as butterflies on rolling imagery and or videoloops

* MoralWorld which implements moral theory.

System Design

Locally large displays and projections are controlled by a computer, which is connected also to bluetooth and wireless lan base stations that provides the link for capable mobile devices.

We expect the organizers to provide the network connection, the display device and audio devices for the public installation and a places for the computers behind the scenes. We are seeking partners/funding for the server and network components.


For the first release, one server will suffice. It will be located both physically and networkwise near the installation site to guarantee it will always work there. A normal poweful server computer will suffice for serving a large number of participants (hundreds).

Installation renderer and Installation network

At the installation site, a computer with the best affordable graphics and audio cards feeds the display and sound devices. It can use the same client that remote participants, but has special camera controls/presets designed for the public display where several participants must see their avatars. A more advanced installation can be built using several displays. There may be several installation sites using the same server (or later perhaps the network of them).

For mobile clients there are basestations for nearby participants. Both bluetooth and wirelesslan will be supported. The installation setup provides connections to the server from those networks.

Desktop client

For remote participants, there is a client program similar to existing on-line game applications (e.g. unreal tournament, eve online, ultima online etc.) that can be the same which are used for installations with public displays, but tailored for a single player. The view is focused on the own avatar, showing the surrounding part of the environment and nearby avatars.

There may be additional features, e.g. for examining the states of the worlds.

Mobile client

Participants at the / an installation site use a remote control application.

Organizing the Organism of Worlds

(D)evelopment has Started

The art of doing the simplest thing that could possibly work.

We try avoid excessive planning, although we are familiar with a wealth of design methodologies and planning techniques (perhaps just because...). In planning and storyboarding we adhere to the Agile Modeling (AM) principles such as document only when necessary. We like to organise the implementation work loosely, adopting principles like release early, release often, test while you work from eXtreme Programming (XP) paradigm.

Open source tools are just fine for us. In order to cultivate collective initiative and innovation we have to be able to offer as much of the environments as economically as possible, so open source software platforms come naturally. We endeavour to offer a bulk of worlds in Kyperia as open sourced content. That is another story.

We have already started negotiations with some local partners within the relevant business and research fields. However we are openly welcoming all collaboration in as much as we can cope with our limited resources. We will provide access to our FirstAndLast wiki upon request to our collaborators - wiki is our group work environment.

Project Partners

As of this writing we have already started collaborating with the following.

Gamelot mobile games, mobile content, multiplayer gaming.

Gamelot Ltd. creates Internet and mobile solutions specializing in game and entertainment products. The company's main focus is in online-games, which are developed using our competence and expertise on crossmedia content and Internet applications.

PAC Professional Audio Company - soundscapes, shared audio.

PAC Ltd. is a provider of audio software, audio content and integrated software/content solutions for the mobile environment. Their technology enables the creation, delivery and modification of rich, interactive mobile audio content and covers the whole mobile audio value chain from production to playback.

Ludocraft, game design, implementation and research.

LudoCraft, Game Design & Research Unit in University of Oulu has recently published AirBuccaneers game (mod for UT2003). More information can be found from: . In addition to this the unit has knowledge and experience from various areas of game design and development.

Key Concepts

Agent A program that performs information gathering or tasks in the background. Typically, an agent is given a very small and well-defined task. In computer science, there is a school of thought that believes that the human mind essentially consists of thousands or millions of agents all working in parallel. To produce real artificial intelligence, this school holds, we should build computer systems that also contain many agents and systems for arbitrating among the agents' competing results.

Attribute properties manifest themselves through attributes and functions.

Avatar A visual representation of an agent. Agent's virtual clothing. A collection of properties that make up the visual reprentation of an agent.

Crossover happens when two strands of dna first align themselves and cross each other. The strands break at crossover point and finally reassemble to form a new pair of aligned dna strands. In this context, crossover is the act of rearranging agents' properties.

Installation this is the general term for the collection of equipment, software etc. and their arrangement for a public set-up. Oftentimes is used to refer to a particular set-up.

Kyperia Our world of worlds. A virtual reality for multi-player gameplaying and immersive participation. The eternity project of Kyperjokki.

Mating in this context mating is the reproduction of new synthesized avatars that replace the players' agents current ones.

OffSpring The children of the parents that mated. In case of Avatars, which participants use, prolong the user life.

Place Agents exist only in some place. A place is a displayable unit of a world, not all places are displayed - however.

Property is a conceptualization of an attribute. Mating mixes portions of partners' properties.

Prop The purpose of prop is to generate atmosphere and landmark a place. Props are not directly handled by agents, although the system may move them and change their properties. Props have physical attributes such as size, texture, opacity, hardness, weight, density, reflectivity, etc.

Season Like the world itself, worlds in Kyperia are enlivened by seasonal change.

Soundscape Places are have related soundscapes to convey atmophere, to create dramatic effects and to enhance immersion.

Tool Tools are passive elements like props that populate places. In addition to properties of props they have properties and functions but to function they need a user, an operating agent or the system.

Transitioneffect When a world ends and another starts they are joined by a transition effect. Their purpose is to let viewers anticipate and adapt to the change. E.g. imagine a thunderstorm slowly rising and coming on from the horizon bringing about the new world.

Viewer by viewer usually we refer to the installation audience members. Sometimes the desktop client user is referred to as the viewer. This should be obvious from the context.

World Kyperia is divided into worlds. World is a self-contained collection of things, active and passive. In this case: agents, places, tools and props.


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Davis, Lawrence, Handbook of Genetic Algorithms, New York, N.Y., Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1991.

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Michalewicz, Zbigniew, Genetic algorithms + Data structures = Evolution programs, Berlin, Springer Verlag, 1992.

Salo, Heikki, Crusades in Mediaspheres Crusade I - II , several installations in museums and galleries in Finland, 1994-97.

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