Tree – the virtual experience

Tree from Fluid Interfaces on Vimeo.

Tree is a virtual experience that transforms you into a rainforest tree. With your arms as branches and body as the trunk, you experience the tree’s growth from a seedling into its fullest form and witness its fate firsthand. Tree debuted at Sundance Film Festival 2017 New Frontier and also had its presentation in Tribeca Film Festival 2017.

Collaborating with film directors, Xin Liu and Yedan Qian ( Umeå Institute of Design) from the Fluid Interfaces group designed and constructed the tactile experience throughout the film. With precisely controlled physical elements including vibration, heat, fan, and body haptics, the team created a fully immersive virtual reality storytelling tool, where the audience no longer watches but is transformed into a new identity, a giant tree in the Peruvian rainforest.

credits: Xin LIU

Our hyper-realistic whole body haptic experience used Subpac, a pair of customized vibration oversleeves with six local points and a vibrating floor powered by four based transducers. A multi-track bass audio is designed for each part of the body, so that the audience could feel the disturbance of a forest fire as well as a bird landing on a branch. There are also additional physical elements, including an air mover for a breath of wind and heaters as the final fire threat. The whole tactile experience is automatically controlled and  precisely synced with the visual experience inside the Oculus. We went through various iterations to match the virtual visual details with the intensity, texture, and timing of physical experience.

credits: Xin LIU, Yedan Qian


About Fluid Interfaces at MIT:

We rely on computers and smart mobile devices for nearly every aspect of our lives, yet the way we interact with them has not changed significantly since personal computers were first invented 40 years ago. The Fluid Interfaces research group radically rethinks human-computer interaction with the aim of making the user experience more seamless, natural and integrated in our physical lives. Our goal is to design and develop interfaces that are a more natural extension of our minds, bodies and behavior. We aim to design novel form factors that leverage the full range of sensory capabilities and control modalities of the user while exploring the following themes:

  1. Interfaces that perceive the user, her current context and actions and offer relevant services and information based on that awareness;
  2. Interfaces that offer a more natural interaction experience, that allow a user to use the functionality without diverting their attention or disrupting their actions;
  3. Wearable interfaces that augment the human senses and capabilities;
  4. Interfaces that are designed for more specific or limited applications making innovative use of their physical shape, size and materials.

We are particularly interested in applications which augment a people’s abilities in the areas of learning, understanding, decision-making and collaboration.


Credits: Yedan Qian (Umeå Institute of Design) and Xin LIU (Fluid Interfaces Group)

Film Director: Milica Zec and Winslow Porter

Art Director: Jakob Kudsk Steensen

Composer: Aleksandar Protić

Project funded in part by the Council for the Arts at MIT.


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