A Virtual Glimpse Into The Forest

Taking a stroll through the woods in the midst of autumn is a stunning visual experience. It does, however, require one to live nearby a forest. If you are one of those who does not, [Koen Hufkens] has recently launched the Virtual Forest project — a VR experience  that takes you though a day in a deciduous forest.

First off, you don’t need a VR apparatus to view the scenery. Web-browsers and most smart phones are capable of displaying the 360 degree images. The Raspberry Pi 2-controlled Ricoh Theta S camera is enclosed in a glass lamp cover and — with the help of some PVC pipe — mounted on a standard fence post. Power is delivered ingeniously via a Cat5e cable, and a surge protector has also been included in case of lightning strikes.  Depending on when you view the website, you could be confronted with a black screen, or a kaleidoscope of color.

The project’s goal is to track the timing of seasonal changes in North-Eastern forests. If you’re interested in setting up a similar system, the build and a parts breakdown can be found here while the code is available on Github. If the cost of the Theta S camera is prohibitive, then you can make your own panoramic camera to keep your build on track.

[Thanks for the submission, Koen Hufkens!]

14 thoughts on “A Virtual Glimpse Into The Forest

  1. I am interested in the tech involved. The result, however, is less than impressive: The woods/forest I visit don’t make that strange blinky-light that the presentation shows, I almost never ever have a black hole under my feet and I definitely do not get sick from turning around in RL (real life) – while the Youtube-thingy makes me reconsider if that last coffee really was a good idea.

    Unrelated to the technical “issues” (which, to me, are just another sign of that whole VR-blabla being nothing more than blabla about something that didn’t thrill me back in the 70s), a real forest has a lot more sensual impressions to offer: smell, temperature, wind/gust, noises … the smell of an autumn forest alone can improve my mood considerably. That pixelized visual roller scooter thing can not.

    1. As I wrote in my about page, it’s not meant to substitute a forest. This technology provides me a cheap way to capture a lot of data I need in my research (although it did just start out as me messing about to see what these cameras could do). However, I took the opportunity to wrap it into a nice package and stream it live. I hope it encourages people to go outside, not inspire them to go on a VR trip.

  2. Given the way things are going with the climate there might come a time in the not so distant future were the only way one will be able to experience a walk through a deciduous forest in Autumn will be virtually.

    1. Especially if Emperor Musk has you deported to Mars in a few decades. … and you’ve earned enough credits to spend half an hour in the rec area, maybe you can blow a half dozen portions on the VR machine to hold you over for you next 3 month stint in the platinum mine.

        1. I’ve only had things be fogged up on really stormy days. I’m not sure how this contributes. In any case, the camera and pi put put a fair amount of heat (not being cold) which helps I think. I used a silica gel pack to buffer the humidity a bit. So far so good. But yes, heating would be ideal. I’m also concerned about ice buildup over winter. Again heating the globe is the solution. I’ll look into making a new one, but probably won’t touch the setup until it’s untenable (rather keep a good thing running).

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