Marshmallow Laser Feast’s VR headsets aren’t meant for the living room, but rather the middle of the forest. Resembling round diving helmets with viewports of moss, they let you experience the forest through the eyes and ears of animals when placed over your head. This, it turns out, is trippier than it seems.
Dubbed “In The Eyes Of The Animal,” participants are capable of experiencing the forest, just as some of the native animals do. Since the likes of foxes, birds, and forest deer see things in different wavelengths and fields of vision than we do, “In The Eyes Of The Animal” uses VR to mimic that experience. In addition to letting you see the forest through an animal’s eyes, Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF) also leverages binauraul sound design to put you in an animal’s ears. Participants can even “feel” the sounds of the forest thanks to Subpac, a wearable subwoofer.
The project uses a combination of LiDAR, CT scanning, and aerial 360-degree drone filming. Able to successfully recreated a sizable chunk of Grizedale Forest–an area in Britain’s Lake District famous for its sculptures–MLF populated its VR world with flora and fauna, either scanned using a photogrammetry rig or from the Natural History Museum’s collection.
MLF co-founder Barney Steel says that the ultimate goal of “In The Eyes Of The Animal” was to leverage VR in such a way to challenge people’s perceptions of the inner life of a forest. “We’ve always had a hunger for hacking people’s senses by combining art and technology,” he says. “Using VR to immerse someone in the sights and sounds of animals creates empathy by simulating the way that others sense the world. This type of first person perspective experience is–in my opinion–VR at its best.”
“In The Eyes Of The Animal” was created for the Abandon Normal Devices Festival, a roaming U.K. arts festival. The virtual reality outdoor sculpture is currently on display in Grizedale Forest, but with enough interest, Marshmallow Laser Feast hopes to share it with the rest of the world in the future.