Diffusion Choir

Kinetic Sculpture of Invisible Starling Murmuration

Diffusion Choir is an origami-inspired kinetic sculpture that celebrates the nature of collaboration at biopharmaceutical research firm Shire. Housed in the atrium, the four hundred elements can independently open and close then coalesce into the synchronized movements of an invisible flock of birds.

Each origami piece is activated by the custom flocking algorithm that continuously evolves to choreograph different flocking patterns every fifteen minutes. At the top of each hour, all virtual starlings come together to form a single gesture across the sculpture.

This artwork is permanently installed at 650 East Kendall Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was created in partnership with Plebian Design and Hypersonic.

My role I was one of the three programmers on this project who developed the bird flocking simulation based on Reynolds’ boids model for flocking behavior. I worked with the senior developer to design the flocking behavior that takes advantage of the three-dimensional volume such as figure eight, lateral zigzag, and ascension. The flocking simulation maps to the actual architecture.

In addition, I worked with our hardware collaborators at Hypersonic to develop the hardware control software that open and close the origami pieces based on the position, velocity, and acceleration of the flocking simulation. Our design challenge was developing the movement of the starlings that is both expressive and fast enough to be realistic, while ensuring that we are not overusing the motors.