The Letter Spirit project
Table of Contents
- A very short abstract
- Letter Spirit researchers
- A PhD thesis
- Some sample gridfonts
The Letter Spirit project is an attempt to model central
aspects of human high-level perception and creativity on a computer.
It is based on the belief that creativity is an automatic outcome of
the existence of sufficiently flexible and context-sensitive concepts
--- what we call fluid concepts. Accordingly, our goal is to
implement a model of fluid concepts in a challenging domain. Not
surprisingly, the Letter Spirit project is a very complex undertaking
and requires complex dynamic memory structures, as well as a
sophisticated control structure based on the principles of emergent
computation, wherein complex high-level behavior emerges as a
statistical consequence of many small computational actions. The full
realization of such a model will, we believe, shed light on the
mechanisms of human creativity.
The specific focus of Letter Spirit is the creative act of artistic
letter-design. The aim is to model how the 26 lowercase letters of
the roman alphabet can be rendered in many different but internally
coherent styles. The program addresses two important aspects of
letterforms: the categorical sameness possessed by letters
belonging to a given category ( e.g., `a') and the stylistic
sameness possessed by letters belonging to a given style ( e.g.,
Helvetica). Starting with one or more seed letters representing
the beginnings of a style, the program will attempt to create the rest
of the alphabet in such a way that all 26 letters share that same
style, or spirit.
Work on the Letter Spirit project is being done by Gary McGraw and
John Rehling (under Douglas
Hofstadter's guidance). Gary implemented Letter Spirit's
gridletter recognizer (the Examiner also
called the ``role model'') for his PhD. Gary's thesis is available on the net.
Many of these articles are listed along with abstracts in Gary McGraw's
- Probably the best source of information on Letter Spirit is the
new book Fluid
Concepts and Creative Analogies. Chapter 10 is devoted
exclusively to the Letter Spirit project.
- Gary McGraw, John Rehling and Robert Goldstone. (1994) Letter Perception: Toward a conceptual
approach, In the Proceedings of the Sixteenth Annual
Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, pages 613-618,
Atlanta, GA, August 1994.
An expanded version of this
research is also available, and has been submitted for journal
- Gary McGraw and Douglas R. Hofstadter. (1993) Letter Spirit: An
Architecture for Creativity in a Microdomain. In Advances in
Artificial Intelligence: Third Congress of the Italian Association for
Artificial Intelligence (AI*IA 93), P. Torasso (ed.), pages 65-70,
Torino, October 26-8, 1993.
Not available electronically. See the AAAI paper (below) for a
- Gary McGraw and Douglas R. Hofstadter. (1993) Perception and Creation of
Alphabetic Style. In Artificial Intelligence and Creativity:
Papers from the 1993 Spring Symposium, AAAI Technical Report
SS-93-01, AAAI Press.
- Gary McGraw and Douglas R. Hofstadter. (1993) Perception and
Creation of Diverse Alphabetic Styles. In Artificial
Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour Quarterly, Issue Number 85,
pages 42-49. Autumn 1993. University of Sussex, UK.
- Gary McGraw and Daniel Drasin. (1993) Recognition of Gridletters: Probing the Behavior of
Three Competing Models. In Proceedings of the Fifth Midwest
AI and Cognitive Science Conference, pages 63-67, April 1993.
- Douglas Hofstadter and Gary McGraw. (1993) Letter Spirit: An
Emergent Model of the Perception and Creation of Alphabetic Style.
Technical Report 68, Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition,
510 North Fess, Bloomington, IN 47405, January 1993.
- Gary McGraw. (1992) Letter Spirit: Recognition and Creation of
Letterforms Based on Fluid Concepts. Technical Report 61, Center for
Research on Concepts and Cognition, 510 North Fess, Bloomington, IN
47405, June 1992.
Not available electronically.
thesis is the first major body of work devoted to Letter Spirit. The
thesis aims to do two things: 1) provide a philosophical underpinning
to the project and sketch its general architecture, and 2) thoroughly
discuss Letter Spirit's implemented letter recognition module.
Several human designed gridfonts illustrating the two fundamental
ideas behind the Letter Spirit project --- stylistic sameness and
letter category sameness. These gridfonts also show the richness of
the Letter Spirit microdomain.
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