I’ve talked about sodaplay here before, the wonderful, whimsical, Java-powered world where people from around the net build matchstick monsters and bugs and lizards. The thing started out simply enough, but since the creators had done such a good job of making it extendable by visitors, a huge community of sodaplayers has built up. Visit the sodazoo and you’ll see dozens of new contributions for every day. More recently, they’ve added the sodarace, in which these little robotic bugs race each other in a Darwinian battle for supremacy. It’s a great proving ground for ideas about design, AI, and natural selection.
On the sodaplay pages I found a link to this extraordinary “real world” example of sodaplay matchstick monsters: strandbeest is a site devoted to the mechanical creations of artist Theo Jansen. He is building animal-like constructions out of plastic yellow tubes. The results are both disturbing and exhilarating. Be sure and look at the remarkable movies and images. The robots are here. Please take care not to disturb them.