#575: Using VR to Connect with the Beauty of Nature with Marshmallow Laser Feast

barnaby-steelMarshmallow Laser Feast is a collective of artists who are interested in using VR technologies to capture the aesthetic beauty of nature, and provide immersive experiences that inspire people to cultivate an even deeper with the reality that surrounds them. Their Treehugger provides an immersive experience of the lifecycle of water in trees as rain makes it’s way up from the roots of a Sequoia tree and is released as oxygen in a highly-stylized & beautiful point-cloud aesthetic. Their experience included smells and passive haptic feedback to make their simulated volumetric time-lapse even more immersive, and it actually won the Storyscapes award at the Tribeca Film Festival. I caught up with co-founder Barnaby Steel to talk about how VR could be used to inspire us to cultivate an even deeper relationship with the world around us.


Here’s a clip of Treehugger:

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Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.412] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR podcast. So there has been a lot of intensity over the last couple of weeks. Everything from the forest fires in the West, I live here in Portland, Oregon, and the sky was just covered in smoke and ash was raining from the sky from the forest fire that was happening in the Columbia River Gorge. And there's all sorts of other hurricanes happening in Texas and Florida. And so I've just been thinking a lot about our connection to nature, our connection to reality, and talking to a number of different people who, when they hear the word virtual reality, they hear the word fake or not real. And so in a lot of ways, just the name of virtual reality implies that it's disconnecting from the nature of real reality. But at Tribeca this year, there was an experience called Tree Hugger by Marshmallow Laser Feast. And they're a group of artists that had also had another experience that was at Sundance a couple years ago called Through the Eyes of an Animal. And this year at Tribeca, they had an experience called Tree Hugger, which you're able to have this experience with this point cloud of a tree, and you're able to see the rain cycles go through this full loop, and you're able to float up like you're on an elevator and go into the canopies. And it was a really visceral experience. They had integrated in it some haptic feedback to be able to actually touch a tree, they had a sub-pack, they had smells that were incorporated. And so it was a very rich sensory experience. In fact, it was so good that it ended up winning Tribeca's Storyscapes Award. So I had a chance to talk to one of the co-founders of Marshmallow Laser Feast, Barnaby Steele. And so the deep questions that they're asking is, how can you use a virtual reality to create a new relationship with nature, to be able to see nature in a way that you've never been able to see it or experience it before? And will these types of virtual experiences inspire people to cultivate a deeper relationship with the earth? So that's what we'll be covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Barnaby happened at the Tribeca Film Festival that was happening in New York City from April 19th to 30th, 2017. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:02:34.251] Barnaby Steel: My name is Barnaby Steele, I'm one of the founders of Marshmallow Laserfeast. We started off as a bunch of artists collaborating together, really exploring how new technology can be used to create immersive experiences, kind of tickling the senses. When VR came up, we were thinking, there's loads of stuff that we can do that was completely impossible before. So that's always been our starting point of this adventure into virtual reality is exactly that. We kind of, the brainstorms engage with what does VR enable. that isn't impossible and where's that going? You know, as new technology gets released, new possibilities sort of come up to the surface and that's where we like to basically kind of stir our soup. We're just sort of right on that happy, the happy accident level of creating these immersive experiences and particularly into nature. So, yeah.

[00:03:25.933] Kent Bye: Yeah, I had a chance to see this piece that's at Tribeca called Tree Hugger, as well as the piece that was at Sundance last year, which was about, you know, Through the Eyes of Insects. So I want to go back to the previous piece that you did, because I feel like there's some stylistic things that I'm seeing echoes of in Tree Hugger, but maybe you could walk me through your previous VR experience that you did in terms of giving someone an immersive first-person perspective of how different insects see the world.

[00:03:52.761] Barnaby Steel: Yeah, so I think the starting point for both of these projects are really about how we can create experiences that reconnect us to reality. So there's, in a way, we're walking around in our human flesh sacs sensing the world, but obviously there's a much broader spectrum of reality happening all around us. And one example of that is the sensory perspective of a mosquito, who sees the world completely differently in a way we can't really imagine. And so just to jump back, it's like, how can we create these deep experiences in nature that when you come back out, you've got a new appreciation for the fact that we are nature too. And living in the city, we're so disconnected from that. So I think that all of our work is really centered around that reconnecting to nature and revealing those experiences beyond our senses. So back to the forest, the first one, it was a site-specific installation. And so we worked with local biologists in the area and found out about the mosquitoes and the frogs and the dragonflies and the owls in that specific part of the forest, Grisedale Forest in the Lake District. Then we 3D scanned it and generated experiences based around the principles of the way those animals sense. There's an interesting aspect to it, actually, you can't really simulate a sense that you don't have. So it's like trying to explain to a blind person what sight is like. You can kind of touch the same thing, and words will never articulate the richness of that. So in a way, there's this beautiful gap where you can get informed by the science, but then get creative to sort of imagine what that might be. And for us, that ticks all the boxes. Collaborating with these amazing minds, learning about nature, and then that whole process just leads to these works.

[00:05:41.919] Kent Bye: Yeah, I just did an interview with Andrew Eagleman, who's a neuroscientist, and he's looking at this concept of sensory substitution or sensory addition, such that, you know, he's doing the process of creating a haptic vest that is translating sound into one of these 32 different buzzers that are essentially breaking down the frequencies of that sound and giving your brain the same signals as if your cochlea were. So he's able to give this vest to someone who's deaf, and it's able to allow them to turn their torso into an ear, essentially. So they're able to create these new senses from this principle. But the point that he's making is that this is all an unconscious process of being able to extend our senses in these different ways. and that our body starts to take these signals and starts to understand it. So, as we think about this process of sensory substitution or sensory addition, adding new senses, I mean, one of the things that I saw from this piece that you did at Sundance a couple years ago is you're kind of taking these visual metaphors of what it would be like to visually receive this information, but from the insect's perspective, it's kind of just receiving it in its body and it may be able to detect things in a way that we can't even imagine through our Sight but through this visual metaphor you're able to maybe kind of imagine what it might be like giving our existing senses that we have I love the sound of that vest.

[00:07:05.984] Barnaby Steel: That's exactly so Our whole company is built around collaboration and in fact we're a small entity and we're always working with a range of different people, PhD boffins working in engineering and scientists and so as this journey continues it's exactly about that, about engaging with the possibilities of something like that vest and then thinking how that might translate to a sensory experience that kind of redefines your whole perception of reality. I think it's super exciting and also where this tech's going, it's hard to keep up with the possibilities. I mean we're just engaging now with The next iterations of this project are to go down into the mycelia where they're mining the minerals out of the rocks and they flower into mushrooms and decay like the molecular disassemblers of nature and so you can start to imagine how eyes of the animal with tree hugger with the wood wide web experience. ultimately they piece into a much larger open installation where we can have multiple people in there exploring all of these different sensory perspectives. So that's kind of bit by bit we're building towards that moment and using all of this new tech to kind of augment those experiences is what we really love to do.

[00:08:24.367] Kent Bye: Yeah, so the thread that I see stylistically, both between Eyes of the Animal as well as Tree Hugger, is that in Eyes of the Animal, you're taking kind of like this point cloud representation of the world, but also as you start to look through the eyes of these different insects, you're showing you kind of the input or the data that they're seeing. And in Tree Hugger, you're kind of seeing the water transmitting and how it would flow through, as well as maybe some more etherical, you know, kind of unperceptible dimensions of perception that's kind of flowing through the tree as well. But I'm curious how you approach that translation of trying to imagine these different senses and make that translation stylistically in terms of the computer graphics and, you know, what you were taking as an input for how a dragonfly might see the world, and how do you translate that visually?

[00:09:19.843] Barnaby Steel: Well, I think part of our embrace of point clouds is that when you try and do stuff that's sort of realistically textured with photogrammetry and stuff, there's a kind of uncanny valley thing that we used to that in the context of a face. But I think it applies to any scene where it's almost real, but not quite. And dealing with points as well, we're able to create extra resolution in detail. into areas seamlessly. So for example, as I move my head, I'm traveling with the water down a branch and I get compressed into a point where I'm in a CT scan of a pine needle. To make that transition really smooth, I can push my head in and get reduced down to a microscopic level. I can pull it back. With points, it's a much easier thing to do when you're dealing with textures and meshes. There's a whole different pipeline. We embraced that early on. The other thing is that the core of matter is vibrating points in space. I think it just felt like a natural way to be building our experiences. And actually on that note, we're doing CT scans at the moment, so you can take a pine needle as a good example, or a pine cone, and when you scan that as a volume, it's basically a kind of density, 3D density volume that you can then translate to the point cloud aesthetic that we're exploring. When you start to do that, a pine cone could be as big as the Sydney Opera House, and when you push your head through and you see the symmetries that we're not inventing any of that stuff we're really just using the latest tech to sample nature and so by it just feels like when you get it as accurate to the science as possible, or as accurate to the scan reality as possible, then what you find inside is just this natural connection. It's like you've known it's there, and there's that natural beauty that's obviously, you know, why do we love smelling flowers? The plants were there first, and we're dialed into this aesthetic appreciation of the symmetry in nature. And so really, our process is to get as accurate to that as possible, and it reveals itself.

[00:11:25.753] Kent Bye: Yeah, it reminds me of the principles of biomimicry. And, you know, as I think about the architecture of the future, especially in virtual reality, I actually do think that going this route of scanning nature and just looking at the kind of fractal beauty that nature is there. But you're able to play with scale in different ways. You're able to take something that is maybe microscopic or something that we can't put our body inside of, and you're able to blow it up and show and reveal something about the structure of nature that in some ways isn't a dissociative process, but it could actually connect people more to nature. So I'm curious to hear more about your philosophy of how you're going to use these immersive, cutting-edge technologies, which a lot of people could see as dissociative, but to allow them to give them an experience that makes them more connected to nature.

[00:12:10.634] Barnaby Steel: I think you touched on an interesting thing there, which is If I look at an image of an electron microscope, it's hard for me to understand how small that really is. But when you put that into a journey from human scale down to that scale, then because you've gone from human perception into the sort of sub-millimeter nanoworld, then your understanding of the kind of the real tininess of what that thing is becomes different because you've journeyed there and there's also like with the tree piece here we wanted this sentiment of every time I breathe in It's the plants giving me my oxygen. And so every time the sun comes out, the photosynthesis process starts and the oxygen's released. So what we did is speed up the day-night cycle. So when you get to the crown of the tree, it's in line with your breath. So you really naturally, even without realizing, we've sort of tested it on people, you just start to breathe with that natural rhythm. There's a pulsing there and you notice the tree breathing and the light cycle. And so the next phase along that investigation is to use breath senses so you can really get that pure connection. And if you get your rhythm in sync with nature's rhythm, then things start to evolve and reveal. If you start to sort of hyperventilate and move out of that, then it almost pushes you back to the human perspective. So we're starting to think about how you can Obviously we're in control of the way we breathe, but when you turn that into something visual and also the sound of that, then you can really dial into a kind of meditative state that might be harder if you didn't have the stimulation of that kind of environment. And it's also inspired by, obviously we've been tickling all of these boffins all around the world, and there's a guy we were speaking to about Forest bathing, which is a big thing in Japan. You go walk around these predetermined forest walks and they talk about the medical benefits of how it slows your breath down and you relax. I guess it's that thing that we live in in cities all the time and we forget that our natural most relaxed state is when we're in nature. So does that translate to a load of points in a VR headset in a festival? It does. Can you believe it? It just like it does. It does work. So I think we're just going to be continuing this adventure. And I can't see us going any other route because it's the only it's the first time where I feel there's a value in this experience that goes beyond the kind of an immediate razzle dazzle of a car commercial or a laser installation or all of the stuff that we've been playing with over the years. This one feels like it's got a deeper purpose. And so, yeah. Off we go into the sunset.

[00:14:59.527] Kent Bye: Well I could definitely see both the benefits but also the risks of that line of thinking which is to say that there is something that I think is probably very unique and to have a direct lived lived experience of walking through a forest and I want to maintain the integrity of nature and not rely upon technology to kind of replicate this sort of a synthetic simulation of what that's like and if you're in a city and that you can experience something like this if you don't have access to nature, that you can give that reconnection. But I wouldn't want to see virtual reality completely replace the direct experience of nature. And so I think there's kind of a line or a balance there of maybe inspiring people to go have a direct experience with nature. Because people often ask me, you know, like, oh, is VR going to just completely replace the process of being alive. And I'm like, no, life and living in nature is a dynamic process that's interactive and that you have to go actually experience it. I don't think we'll ever necessarily get to the point of fully replicating all of that. And I don't know if I'd want to, because that could bring us into the line of kind of rationalizing the destruction of nature.

[00:16:09.220] Barnaby Steel: It's kind of back to the earlier point that these experiences are impossible in the real world, so you're having an experience of nature that you could never have if you were stood in front of a Sequoia tree, and we love the idea. Everything's based on a GPS actual tree, so you can go and visit that tree, and when mixed reality is working properly, you'll go there, load up your app, and you'll see all of the work we've been doing here, even down to a mushroom flowering. you know, that could then become a sort of overlay on top of that reality. And I suppose there's another element to it whereby you can almost, Ted is a good example, where you curate knowledge and you can, you know, filter nature, nature talks and have these dive into these amazing minds. We're thinking that experiences like the tree hugger would be wonderful from the the perspective of that professor who's a master in photosynthesis and takes you on that journey and kind of narrates these multiple narratives. So it could be a breathing meditation at the crown of the tree or you could follow a professor into the mycelia, someone like Paul Stamets whose stories about mycelia are mind-blowing and you realize, oh yeah, all the soil and mycelia is kind of, it's there at the center of the wood wide web making decisions within a forest. So when you start to put that layer up those stories, the sort of tree of knowledge into that one virtual place, then I think mixing knowledge with experience. In the same way you're looking at a painting in an art gallery, if you've got an art historian next to you it changes the context of it. So kind of, we've got this vision of kind of pooling those layers And I think it would only inspire you to then go out and check out the real tree. So that's that's our mindset. We want to connect people back to reality afterwards. And that's been our experience of it, certainly from having a deeper scientific understanding. When we're out there in nature, everything changes and the wonder just kind of explodes.

[00:18:05.266] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think that's really fascinating. I didn't realize that it was sort of connected to the GPS to that level where it sounds like you will be able to turn this experience into an augmented reality experience. You can start to overlay that. One technical question I have in terms of the, or maybe it's one artistic question that I have in terms of Treehugger, is you are basically watching the rain cycle. So you hear it raining and then the rain starts to go through the tree roots and up into the top of the tree. As that is happening, you have this swirling that happens in the water. Is that what actually happens with how the water is translating and moving up? Or is that sort of an artistic decision that you had?

[00:18:43.433] Barnaby Steel: No, so it's accurate to a point. So basically, it's the process of transpiration that's happening at the top. So there's like an evaporation of water. And so every time the sun comes out through the sapwood, the water's constantly getting sucked up, basically. The sapwood doesn't flow through the center of the tree. It's kind of out towards the bark. It's like on an outer edge and it winds around and down into the branches. So we basically modeled that flow. And then we also did the flow of glucose. One thing we didn't get to touch on yet was a photosynthesis moment, which we're super excited about. That's why we're doing the CT scanning, so that we can shrink you down into a pine needle. But for the moment in the experience, you journey to the top, where transpiration is occurring, oxygen and water is getting released, and you end up in the canopy with the tree breathing. That's as much as the budget would go to at this stage.

[00:19:41.190] Kent Bye: Yeah, I guess when I was experiencing it I, you know, I saw the water and I saw these, you know, kind of orange lines flowing out and I kind of thought of it as a spiritual essence, but it's quite literally oxygen, you know, so you're kind of tracing the carbon dioxide or whatever. Is it oxygen or carbon?

[00:20:00.508] Barnaby Steel: Well there's a mixture actually, so the tree's releasing oxygen and water through the photosynthesis process and it's also creating the glucose that flow back down. So there is one element that's the glucose which flows back down into the tree, into the root system, into the mycelia. But the main flow was the sapwood, which is basically the water coming up through the redwood. And also the color of the tree, it starts blue, but over time it's absorbing that rich red, which obviously is the reason those trees are so red. So all of the sap in the tree sort of becomes redder and redder over time, so the water becomes part of that.

[00:20:42.800] Kent Bye: Tribeca, you have a number of different haptic, you know, we have a sub-pack for haptic, but you also have built a whole installation to allow people the passive haptic feedback of being able to reach out and touch things. But you also have, like, some smell integrated as well. Maybe you could talk about, you know, in terms of this full installation, all the different dimensions that you have in order to give it a more immersive feel.

[00:21:04.836] Barnaby Steel: Yeah, so we're, I mean, the studio's basically built around experimenting. So we're always sort of reaching out to people and seeing how these things might enhance the immersion and the smell when we're out there scanning. We're like, we've got to get smell, even picking up a Sequoia pine cone. It's so intense, dude. The whole thing is just gorgeous. And also that smell you get when it rains in a forest. It just brings back so many memories. And obviously people are familiar with scents being this big trigger of memory. So it just made sense for us to explore how we could combine that, particularly Because we got over the tracking position, as you push your head through the tree to see the inner systems, we can increase that kind of sappy, that classic pine smell. So as you push your face through the bark, you get a higher intensity. At this stage, it's definitely a working process and we've partnered up with this amazing company. In fact, I can introduce you to Stuart, who can give you some of the science behind it, because that's a fascinating story in itself. So yeah, it's really about layering up different texts to push you out of the real world and immerse you in this fantasy land.

[00:22:24.469] Kent Bye: Yeah, and going back to the Sundance experience, you had a whole installation of the different types of, I don't know what you would even describe it as, but you know, you put this artwork installation on top of the HMD, so you're actually kind of immersing and almost putting an insect head over your head in order to see the experience. And so you have this connection to the installation part. Are these experiences going to be available for people to see or is there a dimension where you kind of want them to have the full immersive aspect of the installation experience of these VR experiences?

[00:23:01.155] Barnaby Steel: Yeah, it's been an interesting sort of debate because obviously all the platforms are starting to, you know, they're hungry for content and they're asking us about getting our experiences out there. But as artists, the place that we have most fun is at the forefront of what the technology can do. So in that mindset, we're very much focused on installations and art pieces. But it's absolutely our goal to combine those and release them when we get more funding and when the time is right, because we'd love to make a kind of virtual Eden where these experiences are connected. So that's absolutely the goal, but we're not rushing towards that. This is a good example. We're quite a lean team. And we put all of the budget and all of the energy into exploring things like scent. And that takes a lot of time, but that would never work in the home. And to imagine not having gone, it's just too much fun, all that stuff. They can even go into the forest and they can take samples of the air to work out what those smells are. I don't know the exact science of it, but it's just a fascinating process that we didn't know about before. And now we're starting to explore that in relationship to all of our work. So yeah, it's kind of cutting-edge technology, doesn't make it to the home for a while, and that's the way we like to play. But certainly at some point, we'll be getting that out onto Oculus and all the stores and stuff, yeah.

[00:24:26.519] Kent Bye: And so, what do you want to experience in VR then?

[00:24:29.722] Barnaby Steel: Oh, that's a good one. I'm so obsessed with this... There's something so fascinating about just the world beyond your senses and even when we were in the forest scanning the sequoias, I did a little time-lapse on my phone and about 30 seconds of time-lapse reveals the shadows moving, but you just can't see it. And we're right on the edge of being able to perceive that stuff. And I kind of feel like there's just this hidden beauty that when it is revealed, it's super fascinating. Probably top of our list is to explore this journey of Mycelia, which I think is super fascinating and I'm obsessed by this guy called Paul Stamets and a lot of other people. Louis Schwartzberg, I'm talking to, he's got an amazing film called Fantastic Fungi that just got funding and the kind of people he's talking to, Rupert Sheldrake and all these amazing minds. For me, I'd like to sort of jump into that world, meet those people, and see how I can translate those ideas into a sort of underground, wood-wide web experience.

[00:25:38.295] Kent Bye: Yeah, and we have these experiences here which are pretty much, you're creating your own narrative around them. There's no people talking to you or anything. And so, with the power of some of these stories of the mycelium, have you thought about collaborating with Paul Stamets to be able to help narrate and tell the story as this, I mean, there's a challenge for you as artists to be able to tell it visually, but I'm just curious if you've started to think about, you know, if you could kind of take us on a guided tour and a visual experience of this as he's describing it.

[00:26:11.178] Barnaby Steel: 100% yes. That's exactly what we're doing. So with Louis Schwartzberg, the conversations we're having there is about doing a Mycelia experience that runs in parallel to his film, so it will launch with the film. And so it's an interesting one, because reality doesn't have one narrative flowing through it. You can go to the forest, you can be reading a book on Zen, or you could be there with a scientist that gives you that perspective. you know, once these experiences are built, then there's so many different narratives that can flow through it. And so Paul Stamet narrating will probably be the backbone of it, but there can be other explorations of that same kind of virtual world. And as it gets bigger as well, there's There's so many little nuggets like this idea of the mushroom flowering. It's fascinating that you've got all these mycelia fibers and that they come up and they just know what to do. The way that they wind and before you know what's happened there's a mushroom that could be the size of the Sydney Opera House and then the spores get released and there's all of these sort of fascinating mechanisms and you start to think okay what part am I in that process. You know, what am I embodying in this moment? So as you are flowering into the mushroom, it's very much about the sensory kind of perspective of, okay, what is that mushroom there to do? And how is it sort of sensing decay? That's a really interesting thing, because when that branch falls and the mycelia come up to flower, it's an interesting one to imagine As soon as the chi energy or the life force has left the body, then the mushrooms are in there and they start to decompose. It's really the tip of the iceberg, I think, with these kind of experiences. We're not really interested in anything else other than revealing this wonderful planet that we live on in ways that we just can't sense.

[00:28:03.680] Kent Bye: Yeah, and as you were talking, it just reminds me of the power of doing time-lapse photography or time-lapse film. And that, you know, I think that with Felix and Paul, they've started to do some experiments with time-lapse in VR. I think the first one I got to see that was in their piece with Obama going to the Yellowstone National Park. And they have some more time-lapse sequences through 360 video that are in the people's house. But they've specifically built their camera to be able to do that. But I think the thing that you're kind of alluding to with the power of being able to use these computer-generated images is that you have the power to show people the full life cycle of things that we can't perceive because they change so slowly. that's kind of doing these immersive time lapses of nature through the full cycle, and to take the things that are kind of out of sight, out of mind, and then showing you that in an accelerated timeline so that we can perceive it, but that we can start to have an embodied experience of that, way beyond what we've been able to do with just time lapse in a 2D screen. I'm not sure if we fully understand the implications of sort of immersive time lapse.

[00:29:13.229] Barnaby Steel: Yeah, I mean, That whole thing is super fascinating. There's a tree called the Bristlecone Pine that's 5,000 years old. And it's just up in the White Mountains, about four hours from LA. And we've been going up there and we're thinking about that one as an experience of sort of deep time and how can you make 5,000 years comprehensible to our lifetimes? How can you compress that and tell that story? So that's one thing we're really fascinated about. And also this, We're doing a project about pollination inspired by the super bloom. It blew me away. I went out into the desert recently and saw the flowers. I'm just thinking about how the flower is a dialogue between the plant kingdom and the animal kingdom, and it's there to attract the eyeballs of insects. It's highly evolved. But it's like the plant kingdom was there first, so you start to think about things in reverse. It's almost like the animals are there to pollinate and to spread the plants. I was just wondering how I can tell those extremely long evolution timescales, so you can start to see things in a different way. the plants are in charge and that the animals are there just to sort of service them. There's a great book, Sapiens, which kind of talks about wheat and basically wheat nailed it by turning us all into farmers and spreading it all around the world. It's like wheat is the real boss. So, yeah, those kind of themes are that they're fascinating to think about, but can you translate them to an experience? And that's really that's the secret sauce that we're engaging with.

[00:30:55.458] Kent Bye: Great. And finally, what do you think is kind of the ultimate potential of virtual reality and what it might be able to enable?

[00:31:04.085] Barnaby Steel: So I would hope that the kind of experiences that we're creating will sort of give people a new appreciation for nature and I really believe that there's that there's a transition that can occur where you go away, you sort of move away from consumption towards conservation through having these deep experiences and falling in love with the nature that's out there. So that would be, our hope would be that if we can get that to as many eyeballs as possible, then it might move people to be more sort of conservation minded. Awesome.

[00:31:37.811] Kent Bye: Well, thank you so much.

[00:31:39.011] Barnaby Steel: Thank you. Pleasure.

[00:31:40.763] Kent Bye: So that was Barnaby Steele. He's one of the co-founders of Marshmallow Laser Feast and their experience of Tree Hugger was at the Tribeca Film Festival and ended up winning the Tribeca Story Escapes Award. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, I really love the work that Marshmallow Laser Feast has done, because in each case, they're taking something that is in nature that may be imperceptible, and they're giving you a much more visceral, direct experience of it. Their previous experience of seeing through the eyes of an animal, you're kind of flying around with this point cloud representation. And Barnaby's saying that it's very difficult to completely replicate and simulate another being's sense of what they're experiencing and what they're sensing. And so in the work with David Eagleman, I accidentally called him Andrew, but his name is David Eagleman of Neosensory, there is some way that you could start to put new information into your body. And as long as it's structured and being able to be correlated to something else, that may be unperceptible, then the brain will perhaps start to figure it out. And so trying to translate somebody else's senses into your visual sense, I think, is just something that is very difficult. So just philosophically looking at how to get an experience of how other beings on this planet are experiencing the world, then it may be difficult to fully replicate that. And I guess, you know, to a certain extent, we'll never fully know what that phenomenological experience is like. But overall, the thing that Marshmallow Laser Feast is doing that I think is super fascinating is just giving us some higher order symbolic representations of nature and being able to do this time-lapse representation of these larger cycles that whenever you're watching something change over time, if it changes slowly enough, we can't actually visually perceive it. And so you're able to take these time-lapse concepts and put them into a volumetric sense. And so you're able to see the full life cycle of either plants or mushrooms or mycelium or, you know, just how nature is deeply interconnected in these ecosystems and how they're related to each other, but also individually what their life cycle looks like. And I think that is what is so captivating about it, is to be able to actually look at these living systems and to see the water spiral up and then the oxygen be released. And it was just a beautiful representation of something that I had never really thought about trying to visualize it in that way. It almost gave me this embodied metaphor to be able to understand the deeper connection of these cycles that are happening over these periods of time. And so it's in my body in a new way. I've had this high-level symbolic representation that I could experience within VR and that I do feel like that that started to change my relationship to trees and that I understand them in a new and different way now. So the big question that Barnaby is asking when it comes to how are you able to start to look at these long evolutionary timescales of something like a 5,000 year old tree, how do you start to even give someone a direct experience of that sense of that timescale? But not only the time scale, but also the physical scale, because there's a lot of things within nature that's also at a scale that is so small that we can't visually perceive it. And so if we are able to start with a human scale and then shrink ourselves down, then we start to have a lot more of an understanding of how these different scales are related to each other. The whole integration of smell within this experience is also extremely visceral. And I think that it's hard to fully articulate the power of being able to have it seamlessly integrated into your experience to be smelling, I think, five or six different smells that they had within this prototype hardware. And I expect to see a lot more of integration of smells within art installations and the digital out-of-home entertainment inter-experiences. But overall, I just love this approach of Marshmallow Laser Feast to be able to try to see how virtual reality could actually create a new experience of nature that we're not able to have within real life. And I think there's a huge amount of power of being able to take these natural forms of beauty and to blow them up and to have a much more visceral direct embodied experience of the aesthetic beauty of nature and to use virtual reality as this more symbolic or archetypal reality to get a more direct experience of the mathematical beauty of a lot of the forms that are emergent within nature. virtual reality is not going to replace our experience of forest bathing or walking into the forest. I think that there is something that is extremely visceral when it comes to a deeper essence that you get from physically being in nature. I don't think that you're able to fully replicate what it's like to walk around an entire forest. I think there's something actual physical that happens with both the air and just a deeper sense of presence that you get when you're actually in the presence of nature. So I don't think that VR is going to be replacing our need to be connected to trees through these virtual experiences, but I do think that VR is going to be able to give us an experience of nature that we can't get in real life and then when we go out into the real world then we can actually have that full embodied experience of nature. And I think that's where the augmented reality I think is super exciting because as Barnaby said that a lot of what they had done with this specific experience had all the GPS coordinates such that they could be prepared for a mixed reality experience for you to actually be out in nature and then have these overlays of being able to see how a mushroom may have a life cycle and see that unfold over time or education that is having somebody there almost being like a nature documentary that's unfolding in a volumetric sense through like a augmented reality overlay, but you're getting the story of nature, a narrative of what's happening and unfolding and the deeper meaning behind all of that. So that's all that I have for today. I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of my Patreon. This is a listener-supported podcast, so your donations ensure that I can continue to bring you and the rest of the VR and AR community this type of coverage. So you can donate today at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. Thanks for listening.

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