Funky Forest

‘Funky Forest’ is an interactive ecosystem where children create trees with their body and then divert the water flowing from the waterfall to the trees to keep them alive. The health of the trees contributes to the overall health of the forest and the types of creatures that inhabit it.'[1]

Emily Gobeille and Theodore Watson created a playful environment where kids can explore the system. In a interview, Watson reacts on the question ‘What do you think the most important thing for interactive design?’ as follows:

Hmmm. I think, building open systems. Systems that can be played with and used in ways that were not intended. I am always more interested in the ways that people use my work that I never thought of and I think it is possible to design interactive systems that nurture that. [2]

Funky Forest could be seen as evolution based on the work of Myron Krueger called Video Place (1974-1975, see linked entry). ‘In 1973 Krueger coined the term ‘artificial reality’ to describe the responsive environments he created as part of his doctoral research on human-computer interface design. As he wrote, ‘An artificial reality is a graphic fantasy world in which a person uses her whole body to participate in an experience created by computer. I realized this was more than a technology – it was a culture-defining concept.’ [3]

Video Place is an artwork where, as Krueger noted, ‘participant’s face a video projection screen that displays their live image  (captured in silhouette by a surveillance camera) combined with computer graphics.’ [3]

Another comparison can be made with the project A-Volve (1994-5, see linked entry) by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau. They created an interactive computer installation. ‘… users create and observe artificial life forms by interacting with virtual fish-like creatures ‘swimming’ in a glass pool of water. Using a touch-screen monitor, the user designs a creature by selecting a variety of anatomical and behavioral characteristics, then releases it into the aqueous ecosystem.’ [4]

All projects have a key roll to the participator. Particators interact with the installations, create objects and play with it. For Sommerer and Mignonneau is the interplay between the installations they create (they have made similar work) and the participator is very important: 

‘Based on the insight that interaction per se and the interrelation between entities and the driving forces behind the structures of life, we investigate interaction and the creative process a such. Creation
is no longer solely understood as an expression of the artist’s inner creativity but instead becomes an intrinsically dynamic process.’ [5]

They also talk about the educational part of installations:

‘… we see interactive installations as an important medium to bridge the gap between purely artistic, educational and entertainment design criteria and convey artistic as well as scientific concepts and ideas.’ [6]

I agree with them personally, Funky Forest and A-Volve show us how fascinated we are by these immersive environments. It would be great if we can learn by interacting, playing with it. Because in the end, aren’t we not all a child of the Homo Ludens?



[2] Interview with Theodore Watson, Hitspaper, undated.

[3] Krueger in Art and Electronic Media, p. 166

[4] Ibid., p. 152

[5] Sommerer & Mignonneau, in Art and Electronic Media, p.254

[6] Ibid., p.255

For more information about Homo Ludens (the “Playing Man” of Johan Huizinga) check

Interacting with Artificial Life: A-Volve

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This video gives a visual impact of the artwork that appears in the book. And also implifies the work published in the following artical.

“In the interactive real-time environment “A-Volve” visitors interact with virtual creatures in the space of a water filled glass pool.These virtual creatures are products of evolutionary rules and influenced by human creation and decision.

Designing any kind of shape and profile with their finger on a touch screen, visitors will “bear” virtual three dimensional creatures, that are automatically “alive” and swim in the real water of the pool.The movement and behavior of the virtual creature is decided by its form, how the viewer was designing it on the touch screen.

Behavior in space is, so to speak, an expression of form. Form is an expression of adaptation to the environment.

Form and movement are closely connected, the creatures capability to move will decide its fitness in the pool.The fittest creature will survive longest and will be able to mate and reproduce. The creatures will compete by trying to get as much energy as possible. Thus predator creatures will hunt for prey creatures, trying to kill them.

The creatures also interact with the visitors, by reacting to their hands movement in the water. If a visitor tries to catch a creature, it will try to flee or stays still, if it gets caught. Thus the visitor is able to influence the evolution by for example protection preys against predators.If two strong creatures meet, they can create an offspring and a new creature can be born. It carries the genetic code of its parents. Mutation and cross-over provides a nature-like reproduction mechanism, that follows the genetic rules of Mendel. This newly born offspring will now also react and live in the pool, interacting with visitors and other creatures.”[1]

This artical was published in 1997 Complexity Journam, New York: Wiley, Vol 2, No. 6.pp.13-21


“A-Volve” is an interactive environment where visitors can interact in real time with artificial creatures living in the space of a water-filled glass pool. The virtual creatures are created by the visitors of the installation but can also evolve by themselves. Combat, fitness, energy level, speed of movement, reproduction and life span decide the fate of the creatures in the virtual pool. They can transmit their genetic code from generation to generation to create an evolveable environment. “A-Volve” is an artistic interactive computer installation that implements artificial life, genetics, evolution as well as unencumbered interaction within virtual space. It has been exhibited worldwide and has received several awards for Interactive Art and Multimedia. Its intention is to allow visitors to interact with an artificial world of evolving creatures, as part of Sommerer and Mignonneau’s artistic concept of “Art as a Living System,” where human design and interaction decisions are linked to the evolution and development of non-linear, multi-layered virtual worlds.[2]



[2] Interacting with artificial life: A-Volve