Augmented City: “Forest In The City”

This will be a really cool art installation, in several ways.

As part of the celebration of the 21st climate conference in Paris Naziha Mestaoui will produce an Augmented Reality cityscape, based on her earlier interactive installation ‘One Heart One Tree’. The result will be a virtual forest projected on famous monuments.

The scale is impressive, though I have to wonder whether digital graffiti are any more agreeable than physical graffiti. (The images do not convince me that this is an improvement.)

One Heart One tree, the monumental and participatory artwork designed for the UN Climate Conference, COP21 in Paris. Par Sylvie Pinatel et Florian le Goïc.

The good part, though, is that this is interactive graffiti. The digital forest is planted by viewers who plant a virtual seed. The seed grows by feeding on the person’s heartbeat (detected by a smartphone app). That’s pretty cool, even if the algorithm is very simple.

The original ‘One Beat One Tree’ goes a step farther, and links the virtual seed to a seedling in the rainforest. Every time someone plants a digital seed, a tree will be planted in Brazil.

So–

we’ve got links from physical to virtual and back to physical, personal to global, individual action contributing to a communal result. I like it, and it makes me think about even more ambitious ideas.

I can see extensions and improvements and extensions. For one thing, the virtual forest could be done as 3D Augmented Reality, which you could only see through the magic lens of your mobile device or tablet (or glasses).

The virtual forest itself could have a much more complex virtual ecology, based on a diversity of input signals in addition to heart beat. It could require summer rains, that are built by flash mobs collecting. There could be animals climbing the trees, perhaps based on sensor traces from pets or wild animals. The fertility of the soil could be based on financial contributions.

Which brings us to the almost too obvious connection to the Rainforest Foundation’s digital currency, BitSeeds. Perhaps BitSeeds could be used to “fertilize” the forest, or even as the mechanism for planting the virtual seeds.

Finally, it would be cool to have a feedback to the participant’s device, showing the “health” of both the virtual and the physical forest. This would have to be highly stylized and condensed, so I put it out as a design challenge: capture an essential view of the “health” and state of a forest in one graphic that fits on a smartphone screen!

 

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