Enter the maze


A Daintywalker

Humans versus machine intelligence is the stuff of many a good Hollywood movie. Sodarace, Peter's collaboration with digital arts company SoDA, building on the BAFTA winning Sodaplay, gave everyone the chance to play with the ideas in a clash of creativity between humans and machines.

The challenge was to create a creature that outruns those designed by others from around the world. And if you could, how about beating those created by artificial intelligences? It allowed people worldwide to pit their wits against machine intelligence.

Who can create the fastest creatures to race over a given digital terrain?

Humans use their ingenuity, drawing and engineering skills to hand craft a life-like 2-dimensional creature out of virtual masses and springs that can roll, scurry or run as fast as possible over a given terrain in a virtual world.

Let the AI create a creature

Sodarace players could also use genetic algorithms to create artificial racers, combining human and machine creativity. Once you've designed the terrain, take an already developed racer, for example a Daintywalker (as above), and breed a better version. This is done using a genetic algorithm to find the best set of springs and values for the way they move to get your racer over the course the fastest. It is similar to the process of evolution by natural selection in nature, where animals find the best way to survive in different environments. Only the most successful offspring go on to have children of their own, passing on what was special about them.

Mutations by computer

One of the keys to good survivability is mutation. Small random changes to the racer sometimes produce racers that are better than any other. As good mutations build up over generations, the racers get better and better. When the first ever Sodarace went public, Queen Mary computer scientists spent lots of time creating a super Daintywalker to cover the racetrack faster than any previous one. They used computer generated mutations to find a superfast solution, and then posted it to the Sodarace forum. Job done, they set to work writing a press release to tell the world of their accomplishments the next day.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Canada

That night a kid in Canada found the race, and set about the challenge: to manually try to find a better mutation to beat the Queen Mary racer ... and he did. The next day, the scientists found that they had been beaten and had to quickly rewrite the press release. So in the first ever public Sodarace, human ingenuity, creativity and a strong desire to solve a problem had triumphed over Artificial Intelligence. News of the human victory went around the news websites of the world. Round one to humanity.

SoDA is aiming to relaunch Sodaconstructor at sodaplay.com before the end of 2020.

Actually, machine intelligence still had some tricks up its digital sleeve ... but that's a different story.