Simulation for a wall-mounted robotic butterfly collective

I was asked by Natalie Jeremijenko to create a simulation for her art piece Robotic Butterflies (62 dead butterflies generating complex patterns, pins, coupled electronics, Nitonol shape memory alloy 'muscle' wire, rubber 80" x 80" x 5", a commentary on the Butterfly Effect).

The applet to the right was the result. As you move your mouse, the simulated butterflies produce various emergent flapping patterns. Needless to say, Natalie's final piece was far more powerful than my mere simulation.

- Ken Perlin


  • move left/right varies flapping rate;
  • move up/down varies randomness.

One robotic butterfly ``in the flesh'':

click to enlarge

Source code:

butterflies extends BufferedApplet