Living Reef: Cube’s new 3D marine ecosystem

If you can’t get to the Great Barrier Reef, then the new interactive reef exhibition on the giant screens of The Cube at QUT offers the next best thing.

Opening to the public tomorrow (Saturday January 11), The Living Reef is a 3D underwater ecosystem with complex artificial intelligence (AI) driving the marine species to behave as they would in the ocean, and coral ‘grown’ using special algorithms that replicate what happens in nature.

There are 20 different species of fish and marine life swimming through the 10-metre tall screens – numbering about 10,000 in total – and 11 different species of coral, all generated by The Cube Studio developers with input from QUT researchers.

Cube Studio Manager Simon Harrison said advances in technology since The Cube’s first reef program, Virtual Reef, was launched in 2013 meant the team could now create an even more realistic virtual marine world.

“Essentially we stripped down the previous reef program and rebuilt it,” he said. “Previously, the fish and marine animals had predetermined programmed paths and they shared the same animations for how they swam and their other behaviours.

“Now we’ve used AI to give each of the fish species its own set of rules, and these rules follow as accurately as possible how those fish behave in nature – what they like to eat, how they swim in schools, what other fish they like to hang out with or which ones to avoid.

“Then within the digital environment we let them go and they behave the way they would in nature within their rules, but not following any set paths. In a way each fish is ‘thinking’ for itself.”

To make the reef coral look as realistic as possible, instead of using traditional methods of visually sculpting from photographs, technical artist Lucas Milner adapted a mathematical method called the ‘space colonisation algorithm’ to mimic nature.

/University Release. View in full here.