In this classic bio-inspired experiment, the BioWall becomes an entire ecosystem, where a colony of artificial ants lives and evolves. The visitor can create and destroy ants, and observe their behavior within the colony.

Ants: an artificial ecosystem

Each of the molecules of the BioWall remembers the passage of an ant, with a memory ranging from no passage (resting state 0) to five successive passages of an ant on the same molecule (state 5): the sixth passage of an ant on the molecule resets its state to 0.
This cycle of 6 states is represented graphically on the BioWall (Figure 1) by patterns of green LEDs.

Figure 1: The six states of a molecule, representing
the number of passages of ants on the molecule.

When the BioWall is at rest (all the molecules are in state 0), a pressure on one of the membranes generates an ant. The ant starts moving in a random direction and begins to leave traces of its passage, as defined by the cycle of states of Figure 1.

The ant's path is determined by the following rules (Figure 2):

  • if the ant visits a molecule in one of states 0, 2, or 4, it will turn to the right;
  • if the ant visits a molecule in one of states 1, 3, or 5, it will turn to the left.

Figure 2: Path of the ant on a random surface.

Instructions for use

By pressing on an empty molecule (not occupied by an ant), the visitor creates a new ant. Similarly, by pressing on a molecule already occupied by an ant, the user kills the ant.
Each molecule can be occupied by a maximum of four superposed ants.

For further information
  • G.W. Flake. The Computational Beauty of Nature. A Bradford Book, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1998.


Zoom on an ants colony.
© Eurelios

Chilren playing with ants.
© Eurelios

A colony on the full BioWall.
© Eurelios

Ants moving on the BioWall.
© E. Petraglio

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