Kinetic art installation mimics synchronized flocking of 400 birds (Video)

SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic
© SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic

How would one go about programming machines to flock gracefully in unison like a group of birds? For three creative teams coming together to create a large-scale installation in the atrium of an office building at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it takes about 400 motorized, umbrella-like contraptions, opening and closing in synchronized, computerized patterns that mimic the mesmerizing dance that a flock of birds will often take. Watch it go:


Diffusion Choir from Sosolimited on Vimeo.

SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic© SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic

SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic© SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic

Created by SosoLimited, Plebian Design, and Hypersonic, the Diffusion Choir is an enormous work that fills an empty 60-foot-tall space inside an office building. Yet, to ensure that light is not obstructed, the installation consists of hundreds of folded Tyvek shells, attached to motorized armatures that open and close about 1,800 times a day. The devices were tested over and over again during the design phase to ensure that they could operate and last for years.

SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic© SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic

SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic© SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic

SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic© SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic

During the conception and design stage, the team was searching for a way to create each unit in a way that had it folding down into the smallest possible footprint, and opening out in the largest possible way. After exploring a variety of options, the team finally settled on an origami-like approach to folding down the Tyvek materials, connected to movable metal struts that were inspired by wine bottle openers.


Making of Diffusion Choir from Hypersonic on Vimeo.

SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic© SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic

Connected to a main computer located at the top of the building, these pale-coloured forms are programmed to do some kind of choreographed routine every 15 minutes to "mark the passage of time." Their collective aerial dance also seems to make an imprint in the space that the installation occupies.

SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic© SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic

And the origin of the name? Apparently arising from a happy coincidence, from the intersection of squeaky motors and code, says Eric Gunther, co-founder of SosoLimited:

Occasionally when all of them loop, it sounds like a choir in the distance. It was totally unintentional. My body had such a strong response to the piece. My breathing just slowed down, and it kind of felt like I was swaying with it.

SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic© SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic

SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic© SosoLimited, Plebian Design & Hypersonic

Whether it's the sound of this unified movement or the sight of it, and whether it's in nature or in an office atrium, this kind of harmonious choreography ultimately speaks to us all. More over at Soso Limited, Plebian Design, and Hypersonic.

Related Content on Treehugger.com