Project

Tree

Tree is a virtual experience that transforms you into a rainforest tree. With your arms as branches and body as the trunk, you experience the tree’s growth from a seedling into its fullest form and witness its fate firsthand. Tree debuted at Sundance Film Festival 2017 New Frontier and also had its presentation in Tribeca Film Festival 2017.  

The project is part of our research about body ownership illusion in Virtual Reality (early project: TreeSense). The tactile experience is crucial for establishing a body ownership illusion instead of restricting the experience to the visual world. We aim to have the audience not just see, but feel and believe "being" a tree. 

Tree is a virtual experience that transforms you into a rainforest tree. With your arms as branches and body as the trunk, you experience the tree’s growth from a seedling into its fullest form and witness its fate firsthand. Tree debuted at Sundance Film Festival 2017 New Frontier and also had its presentation in Tribeca Film Festival 2017.  

The project is part of our research about body ownership illusion in Virtual Reality (early project: TreeSense). The tactile experience is crucial for establishing a body ownership illusion instead of restricting the experience to the visual world. We aim to have the audience not just see, but feel and believe "being" a tree. 

Collaborating with film directors, Xin Liu and Yedan Qian ( Umeå Institute of Design) from the Fluid Interfaces group designed and constructed the tactile experience throughout the film. With precisely controlled physical elements including vibration, heat, fan, and body haptics, the team created a fully immersive virtual reality storytelling tool, where the audience no longer watches but is transformed into a new identity, a giant tree in the Peruvian rainforest.

Our hyper-realistic whole body haptic experience used Subpac, a pair of customized vibration oversleeves with six local points and a vibrating floor powered by four based transducers. A multi-track bass audio is designed for each part of the body, so that the audience could feel the disturbance of a forest fire as well as a bird landing on a branch. There are also additional physical elements, including an air mover for a breath of wind and heaters as the final fire threat. The whole tactile experience is automatically controlled and  precisely synced with the visual experience inside the Oculus. We went through various iterations to match the virtual visual details with the intensity, texture, and timing of physical experience.

Key Collaborators:

Film Director: Milica Zec and Winslow Porter

Art Director: Jakob Kudsk Steensen 

Composer: Aleksandar Protić

Project funded in part by the Council for the Arts at MIT.