Artist Theo Jansen has captured my imagination recently with the kinetic sculptures that he calls “Strand Beests.” The wind-powered animated works are released by Jansen on the beach in the Netherlands where they roam around freely. More info from Wikipedia:
Genetic algorithms can be modified to solve a variety of problems including circuit design, and in the case of Theo Jansen’s creations, complex systems. Some measure of “fitness” is introduced into the algorithm; in Theo’s case it is to survive on the beach while moving around within two enclosing lines on the wet sand near the ocean, and the dry sand at the edge of the beach. Those designs best at the assigned task within the modeled beach environment are bred together and graded again. Over time complex designs emerge which sprout wings and flap in the breeze pressurizing what look like plastic 2 liter soda bottles. Articulated legs sprout and scuttle across the sand like those of a crab. Theo uses plastic electrical conduit to make some of the computer’s most promising designs. He then lets them roam free on the beach, measures their success, and updates his model.
There is a very interesting and informative TED video featuring Jansen and his creations.
And BMW has featured Jansen in one of their commercials.