The Firefly Machine


The idea of evolving machines, whose origins can be traced to the cybernetics movement of the 1940s and the 1950s, has recently resurged in the form of the nascent field of bio-inspired systems and evolvable hardware. The inaugural workshop, Towards Evolvable Hardware, took place in Lausanne, in October 1995, followed by the First International Conference on Evolvable Systems: From Biology to Hardware (ICES'96) held in Japan, in October 1996 (proceedings of both conferences are available from Springer-Verlag). ICES'98 will be held in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The field draws on ideas from the evolutionary computation domain as well as on novel hardware innovations. Recently, the term evolware has been used to describe such evolving ware, with current implementations centering on hardware, while raising the possibility of using other forms in the future, such as bioware.

The machine

At the Logic Systems Laboratory we have recently constructed the firefly machine, an evolving hardware system, demonstrating that evolware can indeed be attained. The system is based on the cellular programming approach, in which parallel cellular machines evolve to solve computational tasks. The firefly system operates with no reference to an external device, such as a computer that carries out genetic operators, thereby exhibiting online autonomous evolution.

Relevant publications

See the cellular programming page.

And here it is in the flesh...

Photo by A. Badertscher