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Evolutionary Computation

Fall 2011, Vol. 19, No. 3, Pages 373-403
(doi: 10.1162/EVCO_a_00030)
© 2011 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Picbreeder: A Case Study in Collaborative Evolutionary Exploration of Design Space
Article PDF (1.62 MB)

For domains in which fitness is subjective or difficult to express formally, interactive evolutionary computation (IEC) is a natural choice. It is possible that a collaborative process combining feedback from multiple users can improve the quality and quantity of generated artifacts. Picbreeder, a large-scale online experiment in collaborative interactive evolution (CIE), explores this potential. Picbreeder is an online community in which users can evolve and share images, and most importantly, continue evolving others' images. Through this process of branching from other images, and through continually increasing image complexity made possible by the underlying neuroevolution of augmenting topologies (NEAT) algorithm, evolved images proliferate unlike in any other current IEC system. This paper discusses not only the strengths of the Picbreeder approach, but its challenges and shortcomings as well, in the hope that lessons learned will inform the design of future CIE systems.