The Internet Juggling Database


Juggling Simulators - An Introduction

Colin E. - 6th June, 2001.


Juggling simulators have a short history, with the first crude juggling animators appearing in the early nineties. However, the rapid increase in computer power and rising popularity of the internet has caused the number and quality of simulators to steadily increase. Some of you may be thinking, 'What use are juggling simulators?'. To some people simulators are an excellent way of learning new tricks, to others they are a way of communicating new juggling patterns, although to the majority of us they are just a bit of fun!

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all the juggling simulators past and present. Rather, it is meant to be a review of some of the more advanced simulators in a roughly chronological order.

Juggle, Allen Knutson, 1991

During the later half of the 1980’s a small handful of jugglers were busy trying to devise ways of describing juggling patterns on paper. One of the most popular of the devised notations, due to its simplicity and the strict set of rules that bind it was siteswap notation. Basic siteswap notation, or ‘vanilla’ siteswaps, use strings of numbers to describe a juggling pattern, each of these numbers representing the flight-time of a particular throw.

The imaginatively titled juggle application was one of the first computer siteswap simulators to appear on the Internet. The juggle application is a graphically simple affair, the siteswap pattern is entered at the command line and the resulting pattern is animated. But despite its simplicity, it enabled jugglers to see patterns of great complexity which had never been juggled before.

JugglePro, Ed Carstens, 1992

JugglePro showed just how flexible a juggling simulator could be, and became the first commercial juggling application. JugglePro is not restricted to cascade style patterns, while the pattern of throws and catches are still described by siteswap notation, the hands are able to move in order to simulate popular patterns such as Mills Mess.

JugglePro places no restrictions on the number of hands juggling a particular pattern, exploiting another property of siteswap notation. Hence, passing patterns can be simulated using four hands - or stranger patterns involving three or five hands! One of the JugglePro patterns which is definitely worth watching is the confusing three person passing pattern Bruno’s Nightmare.

JuggleMaster, Ken Matsuoka,1995

JuggleMaster has always been a very popular juggling simulator, probably because of the huge number of patterns that it is supplied with. The application is also available online as JuggleMaster Java. A novel feature of JuggleMaster is that it makes audible beeps whenever a ball is thrown with the pitch of the beep being related to the throw height. This makes it possible to hear a pattern as well as see it, are siteswaps musical? ... perhaps not!

A demonstration of just how obscure juggling simulators can get is the selection of impossible patterns that JuggleMaster will melodiously demonstrate.

JuggleKrazy, Colin Wright & Andrew Lipson, 1995

JuggleKrazy was the first juggling simulator with a user-friendly interface that enabled visual editing of juggling patterns. You can move the position of the hands simply by dragging them with the cursor making it very easy to create new patterns. JuggleKrazy also features a ladder diagram which updates in real-time as the pattern is animated.

When it was first released the authors demonstrated the program at a number of conventions - the five ball mills mess always attracted an audience. Another pattern which caused much confusion was the four ball siteswap 534, with the 3's thrown as outside throws.

Virtual Juggler, Colin Eberhardt, 2000

Considering my own personal interest in juggling and computers, it is no great surprise that I decided to write a juggling simulator of my own, hence the creation of the Virtual Juggler. However, at the time there were already a great number of juggling simulators available and some of them were excellent (see Jongl below). So why write one of my own?

Well, apart from the fact I had a lot of time on my hands, it had been pointed out a number of times that with all of the current juggling simulators mills mess looked unrealistic in 3D, with the arms actually passing through each other. This was due to that fact that all of these simulators have a single arm joint making it impossible for the hands to cross positions without the problem stated above. With this in mind, I created a juggling simulator which has shoulder, elbow and wrist joints. My personal favourite Virual Juggler pattern is 5 club backcrosses, it moves just like Anthony Gatto!

Jongl, Werner Riebesel, 92-present

Jongl is almost certainly the longest running juggling simulator project. The Jongl simulator started back in 1992, it has now grown to be the most flexible juggling simulator available. The current version of Jongl (7.0) runs on Linux, AmigaOS, Sun, SGI and Windows PCs. Among its many features are the following:

  • Jongl supports 4 human languages (English, German, French and Dutch).
  • You can watch up to 10 jugglers throwing up to 40 objects.
  • Not only balls are supported, but also clubs, rings, tennis rackets and many more.
  • You can invent new juggling patterns, objects and even jugglers.

With its long development history, it is unlikely that this is the last version of Jongl we will see released. Who knows what goodies the next one will have in store for us?