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Ten years after...

Ten years after INI constructed the artificial organism Ada [1] for the 
Swiss national exhibition of 2002, influential theoretical 
neuroscientist and a computer scientist Michael A. Arbib [2][3] has 
recently published a paper in the journal Intelligent Buildings 
International [4] entitled 'Brains, machines and buildings: towards a 
neuromorphic architecture' [5].

Ada (officially 'Ada - the intelligent space') was conceived as a novel 
artificial organism, a creature in the shape of a space that visitors 
could enter. The space could then perceive and playfully interact with 
her visitors via sensory organs. She could see, hear and sense touch and 
contact. She expressed herself through sound, light, and projections on 
the walls.

In Arbib's paper he points out that "While there is a great deal of work 
well underway in the design of intelligent buildings and
ambient intelligence, this work has almost entirely ignored the findings 
of neuroscience" and asks what might happen "if our knowledge of the 
structure and function of brains informs
our design of perception, control and communication systems for 
buildings, so that these systems are based on brain operating principles 
rather than ad hoc computational designs". In trying to answer this 
question he takes a new look at INI's Ada, amongst other systems. Ada's 
various subsystems were inspired to different degrees by neuroscience 
[6], and as such Arbib suggests that Ada represents a 'seminal 
precursor' of future buildings constructed as perceiving, acting and 
adapting entities based on lessons learnt from studying real, biological 
brains, and "a significant stepping stone towards neuromorphic 

Part of his paper may be read as an introduction to neuroscience for 
architects and building automation engineers. If these readers take up 
Arbib's ideas and those expressed in INI's Ada, in the not too distant 
future we may find ourselves living and working in buildings that react 
much more intelligently to our habits and requirements.

One small correction to Arbib's article - Ada was exhibited in Neuchatel 
(aka Neuenburg), not in Lausanne.
- A. Whatley 


Dan said...

Interesting post, Adrian. I had hoped to get involved with ADA then, I remember seeing a kind of "mock up" in the Zurich train station. At the time metropolis magazine was considering an article as well. I will try to find the Arbib's article as the whole idea of M2M and dynamic intelligent spaces is really callescing in the Architecture fied.

Adrian Whatley said...

Arbib also gave a lecture at ANFA, the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture, see