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Creating a virtual reality simulation and experience of a forest isn’t too tall of an order. To that end, developer Marshmallow Laser Feast decided to take the virtual reality experience one step further and create an installation called “In the Eyes of the Animal,” a fascinating project that puts people into the virtual environment of the UK’s Grizedale forest and lets them see, hear and experience it as its animal inhabitants do. That’s right, not only do you get to virtually explore a rich forest, you get to do it as an animal.

“In the Eyes of the Animal” transports visitors to the Grizedale forest, allowing them to embody various indigenous creatures, interact with other high-definition animals and travel high above the forest’s canopy for a comprehensive journey that’s unique in its ability to depict this environment through an inhuman experience.

In order to create such an encompassing virtual environment, Marshmallow Laser Feast used a Faro X330 lidar scanner to document the entire Grizedale forest and transform it into a virtual rendering. In addition to lidar scanning, the developer also combined highly detailed CT scans of insect, animal and plant life, as well as photogrammetry mapping of the forest to create a complete and immersive replica of Grizedale. The real time visual engine powering this virtual experience generates and renders the forest environment with up-to-date elements that allow the experience to be unique each time based on what’s naturally occurring.

To get the sound right, the developers went out and recorded sounds in the forest with 3D sound tools from Two Big Ears using binaural audio that mimics our ear’s natural function by creating the illusion of three-dimensional space and movement around the heads of listeners, leading to a highly immersive virtual experience. The sounds circulate around visitors at 360 degrees and move up and down, adapting to the experience, trajectory and head movements of the listener. Utilizing bass vibration, listeners can actually feel their bodies vibrate as if they were embodying a screaming or flying animal.

The installation debuted as part of the Abandon Normal Devices festival back in September as an opportunity for audience members to experience this historical environment in a new and completely innovative way. “We turned the forest into a laboratory, which became a temporary haven for filmmakers, artists, creative technologists, philosophers and scientists, who explored the secret infrastructure of the forest and natures processes. The program provided new perspectives on the forest, through the eyes of the plants, animals and machines that inhabited it, allowing visitors an insight into nature’s technologies as well as emerging trends in digital practice,” their website stated.

Visitors must don a bulky head installation to experience the Grizedale virtual experience, so hopefully you won’t mind sticking your head inside a giant black sphere adorned with some vegetation in order to become a Grizedale critter and roam the forest as king or queen of the jungle.

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