Nature

Treehugger virtual reality: Crawl inside & float up the world’s famous forests

By Kitty Knowles 14 December 2016
Summary

Virtual reality experience Treehugger: Wawona opens today - and it's fantastic.

Sadly, many people won’t get to see the wonders of California’s Sequoia National Park in real life – but one new virtual reality experience can help transport you there.

Opening at London’s Southbank Centre today, this doesn’t just show you how awesome the park’s famous 100m tall trees are: it blends art and science to let you climb inside.

Treehugger

Made by London design studio Marshmallow Laser Feast, Treehugger: Wawona follows the journey of water droplets through a scanned replica of a real-life Giant Sequoia tree.

Wearing a VR headset, you are invited to physically place your head inside the tree’s knot, and to travel from its buried roots below right up to its leafy canopy.

A vibrating body suit helps to connect you to the tree’s hidden bio-signals and rhythms, while a stunning soundscape features layered recordings of birds, insects, amphibians, rain and wind.

You can even interact with the beauty around you – moving your hands to brush around a stunning sea of evaporating water droplets, for example.

You can do it on your own, or in a group of up to four people.

It’s genuinely magical.

What’s the point?

Made in collaboration with London’s Natural History Museum and Salford University, the idea behind Treehugger:Wawona is to help reconnect us with nature.

“It’s about dialling into tree-time – feeling the heartbeat of the tree,” Ersinhan Ersin, MLF’s Creative Director, told The Memo.

“We want people to get excited about unlocking something that’s normally invisible to us in our day to day lives, to feel compassion, and hopefully, to then care more about conservation.”

Indeed Wawona is just the first of a series of tree-inspired Treehugger experiences: the studio is now developing a virtual archive including many famous rare and endangered trees from around the world.

It’s not the first time that Marshmallow Laser Feast has sought to open our eyes to the nature around us. Earlier this year, the team ran In The Eyes of The Animal – a virtual experience that allowed visitors to see the perspective or a range of creatures including a frog, an owl, and a dragonfly.

We can wait to see what comes next.

Treehugger will be open at the Southbank Centre Winter Festival from 14 Dec.