Compared to certain animals, humans have pretty limited vision. We see in a mere three color wavelengths (combinations of red, blue, and green), while the eyes of dragonflies, for example, process 12, giving them ultra-multicolor vision. But now, with design studio Marshmallow Laser Feast‘s new virtual reality helmets, you don’t have to wait to be reincarnated as an insect to see the world the way super-sighted animals do.
Called “In the Eyes of the Animal,” these globular helmets use virtual reality technology to create real-time artistic interpretations of how a forest might look to three of its animal inhabitants: a dragonfly, an owl, and a frog. Marshmallow Laser Feast designers Robin McNicholas, Barney Steel, and Adam Doherty used data taken from LiDAR (remote sensing technology), CT scans, and aerial drone footage to achieve these sense-hacking effects.
The project is currently on view in the Netherlands as part of the Playgrounds Festival. Visitors to the Abandon Normal Devices Festival, a cinema, art, and digital culture event in northwest England’s Grizedale Forest, also recently got to take the helmets for a test drive. They stumbled around the woods in these sci-fi contraptions, which sprout moss and plants from their face shields, with surround sound and audio vibrations in the headset filling out an immersive alternate reality. An accompanying video chronicles their experiences, revealing what the forest might look like first from the point of view of a midge, then a dragonfly, then a frog, then an owl. Trees shimmer in neon, bugs invisible to humans become glowing orbs of red and green.
Artists have always sought to create alternate realities with their work, even when they’re not technologically assisted. Marshmallow Laser Feast offers an early example of how far artists will be able to go in pursuit of that goal once VR technology has matured. As one 3D imaging designer, Olivier Demangel, recently put it, virtual reality is soon “going be more powerful than cocaine.”