Monday, February 28, 2011

When birds are called boids

When a large number of birds assemble in flight and synchronize their movements, they together display flock behavior. Similar dynamics can be observed in the shape and movement of a herd of land animals, a school of fish or a swarm of insects. Going beyond living agents, solid particles and liquid droplets may exhibit swarm behavior as a cloud. Therefore, it is not surprising that computer simulations of such systems are performed and studied to gain some insight in how such large groups of individual actors manage to orchestrate precise aggregate motion [1,2].

Craig Reynolds wrote a computer program to simulate and graphically display “flocking objects.” Inspired by bird flocks, he coined the term boid to generically denote such objects. In a footnote he explains that boid means bird-like object, derived from “bird-oid” [1]. And Brian Hayes gives us an update on what is going in boidland [2].

Should the flocks, herds, schools and swarms exceed our computational resources, then cloud computing is waiting at the horizon for distributed boid simulation.

[1] Craig W. Reynolds: Flocks, Herds, and Schools: A Distributed Behavioral Model. Computer Graphics 1987, 21 (4), pp. 25-34. PDF.

[2] Brian Hayes: Flights of Fancy. American Scientist January-February 2011, 99 (1), pp. 10-14.

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