NOC Week 7: Autonomous Agents

This week I was inspired some native creatures in my home town of Salt Lake City, Utah. I wanted to make a sketch based around the sea creatures that I spent much of my childhood education studying, Sea Monkeys!

Are they ugly and creepy? Probably...I always thought they were kind of cute though.

As a land-locked state, we're not really blessed with the same magnificent sea creatures that we have here in the East Coast. But we do have some endearing ones, such as brine shrimp, which make up a large volume of the Great Salt Lake. They've been around for something like 15,000 years in this lake and are a crucial food source for many of the local wildlife in the area. We also harvest them, in massive quantities - it's a whole industry. Did you that there's so much brine shrimp in the great salt lake, the increase in water density from their tiny bodies will make you float?

I'm kidding, you float because of the high salinity of the water - there really an unfathomable amount of shrimp in that lake though.

As a kid in school we would drive to this large, incredibly smelly lake and collect brine shrimp to study and learn more about them. Needless to say, we kept them as pets. Another fun fact: the sand that makes up the shore of the great salt lake is largely made of brine shrimp poop! That's why we were always told to keep our shoes on during our trips there.

Image of the Great Salt Lake at lunch time, probably.

Enough about this smelly lake, let's talk about coding! Dan was not kidding when he said that this week's material was a lot to get through. Fascinating, but a lot! I struggled to keep up when I was working on my own sketch as my original idea was to play more with steering behaviors - but failed pretty miserably to introduce other elements into my sketch such as obstacles and predators. The videos are super clear and precise and I'm able to code-along with them, but I find that when I try to start something from scratch, my mind just blanks!

So I decided to dial it back and work with the flocking simulation in Dan's coding challenge video but adapt it to represent a colony of brine shrimp. Now, they don't really swarm or flock like fish or birds do, but I do really love how they move and wanted to try to get a similar effect.

I tried to add some articulated limbs but struggled to get them to look right when the shrimp itself was moving around on the canvas, so I simplified my design and ended up liking how it looked better. It's a bit more abstracted, but as a design, I think it's more successful.

I played with the alignment and separation perception radius to modify the starting behaviors of the shrimp. I didn't want them to be flock too well together, but I didn't want them to spin out too much since that kind of ruins the illusion I created to give them their long bodies. They also move around much more slowly in reality, but again it took away from the vibration/movement of the legs that I tried to create.

I'd like to continue to push this shrimp sketch and add some more elements that would effect the shrimp's movement. I'd also like to add a predator, maybe a larger fish or something that would chase the colony around the canvas. I have a few ideas for other sketches that I would like to explore using the content from this week, but I think I needed to start slow and hopefully build more complexity once I've had more practice.

One of those other ideas was to using various steering behaviors to create these suit sprites from the animated film Spirited Away, which jump around the canvas and chase star candies. Maybe that's what I'll explore next.

© 2020 by Dhemerae Ford