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Virtual reality installation visits New Forest this summer with Folio New Forest

Collaborative arts and culture network Folio New Forest, with support from the New Forest National Park Authority and Arts Council England, are bringing people the chance to experience life as a forest creature and see the forest through the eyes of its animals during a unique virtual reality experience.

The award winning installation, ‘In the Eyes of the Animal’ will be at the New Forest & Hampshire County Show from the 30 July - 1 August, and then again at SpudWORKS in Sway from the 5 - 7 August. It will be free for all of the family to enjoy.

'In the Eyes of the Animal’
Image credit: Luca Marziale / MLF

The project, created by Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF), takes users on a fascinating journey that allows them to fly above the forest canopy, come face-to-face with hi-definition critters and embody various animals as they traverse the forest landscape.

Through the use of virtual reality, aerial 360° drone filming, LiDAR and CT scanning, New Forest Show and SpudWORKS visitors can enjoy a unique experience allowing them to see the forest through the eyes of its creatures.

Artistically interpreting the sensory world of the animals, Marshmallow Laser Feast has built a real time system that dynamically visualizes precise LiDAR scans of the forest and CT scans of the animals.

In addition to recreating trees and plants as VR entities, MLF also added many creatures. Some were captured via a photogrammetry rig and others CT scanned by the Natural History Museum in breath-taking close-up, super hi-def detail. These scans gave MLF an opportunity to digitise the microscopic world and perspectives of forest animals using custom software.

In the eyes of the animal
Image credit: Luca Marziale / MLF

Binaural sound design also increases the audience's sensory experience of the virtual environment by mimicking the natural perception of sound in space. People will not only be able to hear the animals’ environment through headphone-delivered audio, they will also be able to ‘feel’ the sounds thanks to a wearable SubPac device that turns the audio vibrations into a tactile experience.

The ultimate goal is to create an understanding of how these animals process optical information and so give people a chance to reflect on their own visual perceptions of the forest.

Originally commissioned by Abandon Normal Devices and Forestry Commission England’s Forest Art Works, and supported using public funding by Arts Council England and Forestry Commission England.

The project was created as a feature of the AND Festival using learnings gained from Project Daedalus, a Nesta-funded research project aimed at investigating the creative potential of drones and aerial 360º cameras.

Robin McNicholas, one of MLF’s co-founders and creative directors, said: “Telling a story from the point of view of an animal in this immersive, 360º way has been made possible by advances in technology. Aerial filming, for example, has traditionally been the preserve of Hollywood blockbusters with budgets big enough for helicopters. But new drone technology means artists can now get a slice of the action too. Thanks to AND, the Forestry Commission and the Digital R&D Fund, this has been an amazing opportunity to merge nature and technology.”

In the eyes of the animal
Image credit: Luca Marziale / MLF

Barney Steel, MFL’s other co-founder and creative director, said: “We’ve always had a hunger for hacking people’s senses by combining art and technology. ‘Through the Eyes of the Animals’ gave us chance to use VR as a first person perspective medium – the ultimate way to hack someone’s senses. 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.”

Phil Hallett, Chief Executive of Coda Music Trust and founding member of Folio New Forest, said: “We are really excited to be bringing this fantastic experience to the New Forest Show and SpudWORKS. We feel it will give people a real insight into the forest that we live in and a unique experience exploring the animal world. The installation will be free for people to try at both venues and we hope a good introduction to Folio and the work its arts and cultural members are doing across the New Forest.”

In the eyes of the animal
Image credit: Luca Marziale / MLF

You’ll be able to find ‘In the Eyes of the Animal’ installation and try it for free on the New Forest National Park Authority stand, in the Heart of The Forest area at the New Forest & Hampshire County Show.

It will then be available to try for free at SpudWORKS in Sway on Monday 5 August 10am to 4pm, Tuesday 6 August 10am to 10pm, and Wednesday 7 August 10am to 4pm. There is disabled parking only available at SpudWorks and further free parking around the village.

This will be the perfect activity for families looking for things to do during the summer holidays.

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