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Here's What Artificially Intelligent Pixel Bending Looks Like

Dmitriy Krotevich's PixelDrifter software is a scientific visualization system that "breathes life" into pixels.

by DJ Pangburn
Jul 28 2014, 1:50pm

Lead image by Matthew Trost

Creative coder Dmitriy Krotevich isn't a professional programmer. But, while his background may be in experimental, improvisational music, both as a solo artist and member of Punktieren and Wooden Plants, he's now making some waves on Tumblr as the creator of an awesome piece of creative code: PixelDrifter.

Before creating PixelDrifter (PxD), Krotevich wrote Glitch-o-Shop, a small image processing application crafted with the software Turbo Pascal for 16-bit vintage computers, and then later rewritten in FreePascal. With PxD, Krotevich wanted to move beyond glitch by creating a tool for software art, because he feels its boundless compared to glitch. For him, PxD's glitches are just a trippy side effect.

#20 by Saboto Visconti

“PixelDrifter was inspired by Kim Asendorf's pixel-sorting code,” Krotevich told The Creators Project. “Though it does a similar thing, PixelDrifter is written completely from a scratch.”

“Also, PxD uses a different approach,” he added. “It doesn't simply sort pixels—it's more like a scientific visualization/artificial intelligence program that "breathes life" into pixels, making them decide where to travel.” It's not quite Turing Test AI, but the pixels do react like they're autonomous creatures. 

Krotevich also emphasized that PxD is a "ready to use" application, not just a piece of code. It works by allowing each pixel to compare itself to its closest neighbors following a given set of conditions. If these conditions are met, pixels swap their positions, yielding eyeball-rattling images that look like rainbows getting ripped into a black hole. 

Noir77

Krotevich said that some pixels are more "active" than others, thus allowing them to perform more swaps. This pixel activity depends on factors such as the pixel's luminosity or position on a screen.

This AI-like process accounts for the sorting process's length, which isn't instantaneous. And, since it's written in Java, Krotevich said that more people can use PxD because he didn't have to “mess with cross-compilation across different platforms (Windows, Mac, etc.).” During its early stages of development, PxD was a command line tool, until Krotevich introduced the graphic user interface version in April 2014.

Occasionally, Krotevich features some PxD-created artwork on his Tumblr page. Type in a Tumblr query for “PixelDrifter” and a number of PxD works pop up.

One artist, Saboto Visconti (glitchphotography), posts images as part of an ongoing PixelDrifter series called “Images Adrift.” A source photo taken in April 2013 in Western Massachussets, titled “#20,” features glitched lines bleeding horizontally and vertically, with a woman's figure in the center, amputated of some appendages.

Dimeth 04 by 
Alessandro Canova

Another artist, Noir77, created a mesmerizing GIF diptych with PxD. Luminous blue and purple glitches resembling the branching fractals of electron tree pulsate inside the GIF's frame. And minimal  glitch artist Alessandro Canova created the amazing image series Dimeth, where “multiple layers of constantly morphing and drifting angular shapes” shimmer in a variety of colors.

Dimeth by Alessandro Canova

Krotevich is aware of some of this artwork, but noted the majority of artists don't share their work with him. However, his friend, Elena Romenkova, is currently exhibiting her PxD-created works at the Wrong Biennale in Portugal. Krotevich also said that Kim Asendorf is one of his “customers.”

As for what's next, Krotevich said he's learning OpenGL programming. And, if all goes well, his next project will likely be an app exploring some sort of virtual reality. For the meantime, we'll settle for these images full of pixelated chaos and beauty.

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