MacArthur Fellows Program

Karl Sims

Computer Scientist and Digital Artist | Class of 1998

Computer Scientist and Digital Artist
Cambridge, Massachusetts
36 at time of award

Karl Sims is a pioneer in the use of computational evolution for generating interactive computer graphics and animation.

Sims uses genetic algorithms to obtain new solutions to real-world problems, develops graphic representations of those solutions, and uses those graphics to help teach the principles of biological selection. His models realistically simulate physical constraints related to motion and demonstrate how evolutionary processes can lead to novel and unexpected solutions to, for example, the problems of perambulation. The modeling is also practically useful in the design of robots, mechanical devices, and in other engineering applications. Sims’s interactive installation, Galapagos, allows multiple viewers to apply aesthetic criteria to animated figures, determining which “survive” to reproduce – a demonstration akin to nature’s mechanism of sexual selection. This graphically compelling, user-friendly allegory for natural processes underscores the potential educational impact of his work.

Sims leads GenArts, Inc., in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he creates special effects software for the motion picture industry. He was affiliated with the Thinking Machines Corporation (1984-87, 1990-96) as both research scientist and artist-in-residence. His work has been exhibited at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and at the ARS Electronica Center, Linz, Austria.

Sims received a B.S. (1984) from M.I.T., and an M.S. (1987) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Laboratory.

Last updated January 1, 2005

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