About the Project
This simulator was created in support of the exciting new Princeton University Atelier course "Collective Motion/Site-specific Performance," (ATL 498/DAN 451), taught collaboratively by engineering professor Naomi Leonard and dance professor Susan Marshall. The simulator was developed by Willa Chen '13, Naomi Leonard and Susan Marshall.
Choreographer Susan Marshall is the artistic director of Susan Marshall & Company. Naomi Leonard studies the dynamics of schooling and flocking motion in animal groups and in designed (robotic) groups. The new course, which will debut in Fall 2010, explores the possibilities that can emerge when a group of human dancers and non-dancers carry out the rules for sensing and response such as those used in schools of fish and flocks of birds.
These rules define individual movement decisions that depend dynamically on sensed measurements of the relative position and velocity of an individual's neighbors. For example, a focal individual is typically modeled with rules to synchronize direction of travel with neighbors in order to move as a coherent group, to move away from very close individuals to avoid collisions and to move towards distant individuals to ensure group cohesion. Other rules introduce heterogeneity in the group; for instance, some individuals may develop and respond to preferences based on prior knowledge and external clues and some may need to move differently to avoid obstacles or to react to an external flow field, a threat or a nutrient gradient. As observed in nature, a rich set of complex motion patterns at the level of the group is possible.
The simulator allows the user to design original combinations of rules, environment and initial conditions and to view the resulting motion for a group of individuals modeled as particles. We hope that this simulator can be a useful, enjoyable tool for students in the course and other inquisitive spirits. Our goal is to provide an application that is easy to use and accessible for everyone, yet complex enough to stimulate the imagination.
We thank Naomi Leonard's research group, the dancers from Susan Marshall & Company and elsewhere (and their friends) who participated in the studio work in early July 2010, Aaron Trippe '12 and computer science professor Brian Kernighan for all of their valuable input and inspiration. We are also grateful for the generous support of Princeton's Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education, Princeton's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, the Princeton Atelier at the Lewis Center for the Arts, and the Essig Enright Fund of the Princeton Neuroscience-Engineering Program.