Project

Tree

Xin LIU, New Reality.co

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 showed in Tribeca Film Festival 2017.  

Collaborating with director Milica Zec and Winslow Porter, Xin Liu and Yedan Qian ( Umeå Institute of Design) from the Fluid Interfaces group designed and constructed the entire 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. 

The body 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.

Our hyper-realistic whole body haptic experience used Subpac, a pair of customized v… View full description

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 showed in Tribeca Film Festival 2017.  

Collaborating with director Milica Zec and Winslow Porter, Xin Liu and Yedan Qian ( Umeå Institute of Design) from the Fluid Interfaces group designed and constructed the entire 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. 

The body 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.

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. Technicolor’s Scott Gershin designed multi-track bass audio 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 controlled by Max/MSP and Arduino, while communicating with the Unreal engine through OSC. The physical experience was 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.

In collaboration with The Rainforest Alliance, during the Sundance Film Festival, we gave each audience member a seed inside an envelop with a number on it. They can use their emails and that number to log in to the "participants" section of the Tree website to stay updated on the project. The team utilizes virtual, mixed, and actual reality to tap into positive social change and explore the human experience.

In this project, we collaborate closely with The Rainforest Alliance, who works with indigenous forest communities, companies, and governments to conserve forests through sustainable sourcing. They are also experts on the inner workings of the Peruvian region of the Amazon, the environment we simulated for the Tree experience. The Rainforest Alliance partnered with the Tree team, especially with the art director Jakob, to create the most accurate and photorealistic experience possible by verifying elements of our visual environment. Their team came together to inform us which birds, plant life, insects, and mammals populated the Madre de Dios region in Peru so we could accurately buy and create the corresponding assets and integrate them into game engine. Additionally, their advisors helped to advise on the details of soil quality, skyscape, and adjacent trees in the areas, helping our developers to properly texture the environment.

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