Events, Experiential

At the cross-section of art and technology, the PufferSphere has facilitated a one-of-a-kind installation exploring communication between humans and artificial intelligence.


Originally created for the Amsterdam Dance Event, media artist Nick Verstand was inspired by his research into human perception of reality through technology, to create the concept for ANIMA - an exploration of communication between humans and artificial intelligence. Nick collaborated with a multi-disciplinary team including Berlin-based art and design studio Onformative, artist Frouke Van Telden, Pufferfish and several others key contributors to make his vision of “creating an artificial object that feels alive” a reality.


Using movement, texture, light and sound, the installation is centred on a 2M inflatable PufferSphere, suspended from the ceiling and set within a darkened space, with the sphere being the only source of light. A transformational space is created and as participants approach the sphere, it reacts visually to their presence with fluid, colourful motions dancing across its surface while sound complements the exchange between man and machine. The illusion of a sensory response from a piece of technology is created to strike awe and wonder in participants.

In his own words the artist himself describes it as:

“Investigating how we emotionally relate to a digital being. In order to better understand this relationship we created ANIMA: a spherical digital entity that communicates with us by interpreting our body movements and sounds. A generative being that comes to life through interaction. Like any being, we establish a relationship with it, conscious or subconscious, intended or unintentional. In its generative audio-visual behaviour it portrays its character.”

Nick approached Pufferfish to be involved with the immersive, interactive experience, in the first instance for the Amsterdam event, and since then the piece has since travelled all across the globe.

Summary of outcomes

The heart of the Pufferfish mission is to introduce a different way of thinking about using digital media in public and challenge the traditional consumption of flat, passive media. PufferSphere technology allows us to take conventional perceptions and expectations and turn them on their head. It is something that we strive to achieve in our work every day and we are delighted to have been able to get involved with a project as unique as ANIMA.

Inspiring curiosity, creating mystery, and an enchanting ambience, the installation has captivated private and public audiences around the world and gained plaudits along the way, including making the shortlist for the prestigious Lumen Prize. The Chicago Tribune called it “the coolest interactive exhibit at SXSW” noting that “to visit Anima is to meet a non-human entity that knows you’re there and then waves to greet you.”

ANIMA featured as one of the inaugural exhibits at the eagerly anticipated Design Society museum in Shenzhen, China. Part of the 'Minding the Digital' exhibition launching the world-class Victoria and Albert Museum, ANIMA was in residence in the main hall for 6 months.

Follow ANIMA's travels here:

With thanks to Onformative for pictures and video.

Leander Roet of The Creators Project described interacting with the sphere in as a beautiful and profound experience:  

“It was almost as if the sphere was alive or, rather, came to life. When, after a few minutes, four dancers started parading around the object as if it was an intergalactic totem, it very well might have well been alive.  I, for one, didn’t see anyone do anything other than stare into the mysterious light source floating in front of us. Mobile phones disappeared into pockets. Talking became whispers about how beautiful the experience was.” 

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