An emergent behavior platform.
by Sheldon Brown

Assembly is an emergent behavior platform in which collections of entities evolve over time in relationship to their environment and each other, with guidance provided by viewers.

A synthetic system of encoding characteristics, and a set of rules akin to the chemistry and physics of an environment, provide the basis for creating increasingly complex emergent behavior. A collaborative agency is created between the impulses of the algorithmic systems and the means of their understanding through experimentation.

These genetic and environmental conditions are abstractions of an underlying scheme which can be applied to varied types of data. In the Assembly project we show this by working through three levels of representation that evoke 1) the cellular, 2) the organism, and 3) the socio-cultural.

Created by Sheldon Brown with Wes Hawkins, Erik Hill, Ian Xingchen and Stephanie Angel, with support from Genotaur and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination.

User Interface


The Brain Control Interface measures gamma waves which are analyzed to produce a concentration/engagement metric. As users become more engaged with the experience, more of the environment is revealed to them.

Mobile Devices

Assembly on an iPhone

Users can utilize their smartphones or tablets to capture entities from the environment, cultivate and genetically engineer their creature and release it back into the shared environment.



Assembly Lab

The assembly lab.

Bricklayer Experiment

This experiment was put together as being a possible boilerplate for the creation of our 'creatures.'

Cube Experiment

An attempt to show that what can be characterized as 'awareness' (or even 'intelligence') can be simulated using only very basic physics.

Clump Experiment

A very simple experiment in elementary forces.

Structure Experiment

An attempt to generate evocative 'molecular' structures out of simple particles and bonds that go beyond simple 'clumps.'

Stem Cell

Adding the effect of each node acting as a 'stem cell' that changes its 'function' based on how many other nodes it is bonded to.

Impulse Experiment

The stage of the project shows a definitive step towards the creation of 'organisms' born of our three types of nodes.

Survival Experiment

A step forward from the 'Impulse' experiment, this simulation begins introducing concepts of metabolism, calorie burn, and reproduction.

Natural Selection Experiment

We refactored our DNA code to read the structure of an assembly from a regular closest-packing grid, allowing assemblies to mutate, duplicate, and reproduce reliably.


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