The Particle Mirror is part virtual mirror and part interact computer simulation. Created in 2017 by Karl Sims, it is on display at the Boston Science Museum. This playful exhibit allows visitors to interact with virtual particles by moving. It creates a video image on a large wall, which is augmented with special effects to give the impression that you are in the same room as the particles. A sensor detects people in front of the display so they can push the particles around with their movements. The exhibit cycles through various modes with different visual effects. This display is naturally located in the Wicked Smart Gallery.
A physics simulation determines the behavior of each particle. Gravity, swirling motions, collision avoidance forces, and air friction are combined with people’s interactions. These forces allow your motions to push the particles. The results can resemble bouncing balls, fireflies, falling snowflakes, sparkling glitter, foamy bubbles, or even molecules. Pictured are bouncy balls that repel each other and tend to spread out so they are evenly spaced. We played with this exhibit as it cycled through its different modes until some kids showed up and we felt compelled to share.