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Introduction

Ever wonder how birds flock? How crystals form? How ants forage for food? How trends in fashion change? All these are examples of group behavior resulting from the collective interactions between many self-directed individuals, or "agents". One fascinating aspect of phenomenon such as these is that very complex system behaviors and patterns can emerge from agents interacting with one another according to a relatively simple set of rules - often unaware of the consequences of their actions in the "big picture" scheme of things.

The study of decentralized multi-agent systems and their emergent behaviors spans a wide range of different fields including molecular biology, chemistry, thermodynamics, ethology (animal behavior), social and political science, economics, art, computer science, and education, to name a handful. Because of the increasing awareness of the importance and impact these systems have on shaping the world around us, there is a rapidly growing body of research that focuses on how to model these systems with computers in order to better understand them.

This website and software project grew out of a family interest to explore the subject of multi-agent systems and emergent behavior. We have created a agent-based simulator, called VisualBots, that allows the design of virtual worlds consisting of many programmable robots that can interact with one another in various ways. These worlds can be observed while their often surprising emergent characteristics evolve through time. View our projects page on this website to see how we have applied VisualBots to explore examples of emergent behavior.

 

A fractal tree drawn using thousands of self-directed "robo-artists". See our Projects page for more info.

The VisualBots simulator is a programmable ActiveX Control for Microsoft Excel. The control exposes a powerful set of VisualBots objects, methods, and properties that are manipulated using Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications that comes installed with Excel. For more info, see our software page on this website, and feel free to download the VisualBots simulator to try it yourself.


 
 
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