Hypha is a VR experience that premiered at Sundance New Frontier 2020 that allos you to embody the full life cycle of a mushroom. You start as a spore in space that comes to Earth, you find enough water, and the go underground to grow into a hypha, and then gather into a mycelium where you communicate with nature & transmute toxic substances to nutrients.
Hypha director Natalia Cabrera is an interactive storyteller based in Santiago de Chile, and I talked with her at Sundance about her journey into VR, why she decided to use a poetic aesthetic in covering the unique fungi kingdom, and her collaboration with scholar and fungi activist Giuliana Furci. She references Suzanne Simard’s TED Summit talk How Trees Talk to Each Other as an inspiration, and she’s working on a new piece that Symbiotica about the cooperation between fungi and flora as a metaphor of a possible society.
I thought that it’s a really powerful experience to be able to embody a mushroom, and to explore the life cycle dynamics of the fungi kingdom within virtual reality. There’s a part of my mind that wanted to know the names and facts of the experience while I was in it, but at the same time I appreciated the mostly non-verbal, embodied interactions that created a more visceral hook for me to learn more later. It’s as if learning about nature in this way allows me a deeper experiential grounding and desire to want to learn more from books and other films. Immersive technologies and spatial storytelling isn’t mean to completely replace existing media, and so I think Hypha was able to find a powerful sweet spot for how XR could be used within educational contexts since it was the type of experience that is going to catalyze a lot of imagination and curiosity about the unique nature of the fungi kingdom.
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