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I have now finished work on a much more advanced version of the insect simulator named AnimatLab. AnimatLab is a software tool that combines biomechanical simulation and biologically realistic neural networks. You can build the body of an animal, robot, or other machine and place it in a virtual 3-D world where the physics of its interaction with the environment are accurate and realistic. You can then design a nervous system that controls the behavior of the body in the environment. The software currently has support for simple firing rate neuron models and leaky integrate and fire spiking neural models. In addition, there a number of different synapse model types that can be used to connect the various neural models to produce your nervous system. On the biomechanics side there is support for a variety of different rigid body types, including custom meshes that can be made to match skeletal structures exactly. The biomechanics system also has hill-based muscle and muscle spindle models. These muscle models allow the nervous system to produce movements around joints. In addition, there are also motorized joints for those interested in controlling robots or other biomimetic machines. This allows the user to generate incredibly complicated artificial lifeforms that are based on real biological systems. Best of all AnimatLab is completely free and it includes free C++ source code!

4.5.3 Dying

1. Introduction

All things end, and this includes the virtual insect. Future versions of this simulator will be used with genetic algorithms to attempt to grow the neural network that the insect uses for its brain. That will require defining a fitness function that can be used to determine which insects are more fit, and thus more likely to survive. And a large part of the fitness of an animal will be determined by whether or not it is able to survive on its own. If it can not find and eat food it will eventually die, and this will weed out unfit individuals. (It is more complicated than this, but lets save that for later.) In the current simulator the insect will die when its energy supply reaches zero. However, It can not die of old age. So as long as the food supply holds out and the insect is always able to eat food, it will continue to putter around its environment. There are no neurons involved in death of the insect. It is simply part of the simulation code. When the energy level of the insect hits zero then it can no longer move, and its neurons are no longer active. Also, the insect turns a cold, dead, blue color in the simulator when it dies.

Dying
Video 1. This video shows the insect dying.

Video Size: 324 Kb

This is a simple example that shows the insect dying. It starts out with a really low energy level of 0.03. This is only enough for it to walk a short distance. It then dies, turns blue, and no longer moves.


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