The Butterfly Garden
Amazement in the palm of your hand
In 2004 I created this completely magical interactive experience called The Butterfly Garden for the Submerge exhibition. Its a memorable interactive illusion that puts digital butterflies all around you. Born in the palm of your hand, the interactive creatures flutter from flower to flower, until they eventually fly off into the ether.
People of all ages can interact with the artificially intelligent 3D butterflies by placing their hands above one of sixteen flowers, growing new and different butterflies in their palms. Entire groups of people can interact with the garden at any time. Just make sure you are gentle and calm though. Just like real butterflies, if you make sudden movements you may scare them away.
I have worked on several different versions of the beautiful butterfly garden.The very first was for the Submerge exhibition in Bristol, surrounding the main entrance with two sets of flowers planted on real grass turf. More recently the piece has been recreated for a Bridal show in Plymouth and a Literary festival in Cornwall.
How does it work?
Hidden into every sunflower is a tiny sensor that can detect the movement of your hand, and the distance and position of your hand. As you hold your hand out gently, the intelligent butterflies sense your position, and fly towards you. If you spend enough time playing, you can be surrounded by beautiful creatures.
How was this made?
I had been working with sensors and a computer control system that I wired and designed myself during my time on my degree. The sensors were really delicate and super-sensitive, so I had to find the perfect use for them. I wanted to create an interaction that was light and delicate and delightful. Luckily, Submerge approached me and asked me to create something along the theme of ‘organic/synthetic’ and the ideas just went together beautifully.
Thanks to Submerge