Mobile phones reborn as butterflies

A group of designers and coders have unveiled a set of four digital butterflies made entirely out of discarded mobile phone components in London.

Commissioned by O2 Recycle to highlight how new life can be born out of old technology, the robotic creations were revealed ahead of World Environment Day. The digital butterflies demonstrate the exciting possibilities of unloved technology, where old gadgets are up-cycled rather than being tossed into the rubbish.

The striking mechanical creatures took over seven months to build and have advanced coding algorithms incorporated into them; so that each butterfly has a unique response to every person it interacts with. The public will be able to get up close and personal with the butterflies when they go on display in the O2 store at The O2 later in the summer.

Each butterfly has an individual phone number which, when called, activates the butterfly and instructs it to spread its digital wings. Made out of handset screens, the wings feature a bespoke pattern which constantly evolves, behaving differently with each interaction.

Individually designed to represent different species, the four butterflies all boast their own look and set of features, such as extendable antennae, a head which moves on more than one axis of freedom and laser eyes.

Bill Eyres, Head of Sustainability at O2 said: “We can see this project creating a type of ‘butterfly effect’. As people experience this amazing recycled technology, we hope they will be inspired to regularly recycle their old devices. Many people don’t realise that their old technology can have a second life.

“There’s an environmental need to dig out old gadgets so they can be used again, rather than lying unused and unloved in a drawer. O2 Recycle offers a simple, sustainable way to recycle unused gadgets and receive a cash payment in return. We all have a role to play in making sure that old technology lives on even when we’ve finished with it.”

Check out the  butterflies in action below:

Chris Cairns, Creative Director at is this good?, the collective who designed the butterflies for O2, said: “We wanted to give the ‘old and forgotten’ a new lease of life and showcase the fact that even the discarded can emerge as something new and beautiful, which is what up-cycling and O2 Recycle is all about.

“We hoped that, by creating ‘Social Butterflies’, we would raise a smile and remind people that we can create moments of recognition and happiness out of products we have previously loved and now overlook. Each of these butterflies have their own little personality quirks so I’m looking forward to the members of the public starting up a conversation with them.”

O2 Recycle, part of the O2 Think Big environment initiative, offers cash payments of up to £260 for unwanted gadgets; including mobile phones, tablets, MP3 players, handheld consoles, digital cameras and SatNavs. The scheme is available to both O2 and non O2 customers. To date, O2 Recycle has given £77million to customers with a proportion of profits invested into the Think Big youth fund.

The mobile phone upcycling project, which converts waste materials and otherwise useless products into new and desirable items, was created by O2 Recycle.  The Butterflies follow on from the initiative’s ‘wearable tech’ collection which featured products such as ‘Walkie Talkies’, a combination of recycled phones and vintage shoes.

For more information on O2 Recycle or Think Big visit http://www.o2recycle.co.uk/