A Brief History of Digital Embryos

A Brief History of Digital Embryos

Digital embryos were originally invented as part of Mark Brady’s Ph.D. thesis on object learning in the laboratory of Dr. Daniel Kersten at the University of Minnesota.  The original version was written in C/C++ on Silicon Graphics computers using the Inventor library.

Since then, two different lines of software related to digital embryos have been developed, collaboratively but more or less in parallel, because two different groups of programmers have worked on them.  The first group has been led by Dr. Brady.  A member of this group, Nathan Gossett of University of Minnesota, ported the Inventor based program to OpenGL so that it would run on Macs and Windows.  Dan Gu (North Dakota State University) of this group has redesigned the graphical user interface and added a number of algorithmic enhancements under the direction of Dr. Brady.  This group has developed a very user-friendly, menu-driven version of the digital embryo toolkit, called the Digital Embryo Workshop (DEW).  DEW incorporates many features suggested by Jay Hegdé (then working as a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Kersten at the University of Minnesota) to make digital embryos more useful in psychophysics research.  These include the simulation of programmed cell death and virtual morphogenesis (VM).  The DEW toolkit offered as Download 1 on our Digital Embryos page was developed by this group.

The second group initially consisted of Evgeniy (Eugene) Bart and Jay Hegdé working under the tutelage of Dr. Kersten.  This group also independently ported the Inventor code to OpenGL and wrote various additional programs in C/C++ for the Cygwin platform.  After Jay moved to his current position at the Georgia Health Sciences University, Karin Hauffen in Jay’s lab has worked quite a bit on developing additional digital embryo-related software.  This group uses a  large but loose suite of programs and scripts  written specifically for research purposes for various platforms including Cygwin, Matlab, MaxScript and OpenCV.  For this reason, these programs are not very user-friendly as yet.  Nonetheless, some of the friendlier programs and scripts written by this group are offered as Download 2 on the Digital Embryos page.