In the Eyes of the Animal puts you inside the head of a bat

How can you ever understand the way an animal sees the world? You can’t, really. You’re too smart. You don’t have the body of a cat, or a dog, or a chicken. You’ve grown up with human eyes and human thoughts. You can, however, put on a virtual-reality headset and try to get somewhere close.

Marshmallow Laser Feast’s VR experience In the Eyes of the Animal lets its viewers see a forest from the perspective of our furry, scaly and winged planetary-housemates. While the project went down a storm at this year’s Sundance film festival, the original version involved in-situ viewings within the Lake District’s Grizedale Forest. This immersive portion of the experience is now going to tour again, with the addition of a new section that gives participants a chance to experience the world as a bat.

While the VR experience was built using a combination of 360-degree video filmed using drones, CT scans and recordings sourced from the surrounding woodland, the bat portion is limited to sound. To mimic the way bats use sound waves to sense the environment around them, Marshmallow Laser Feast has created a small listening device that emits clicks based on how close or far away objects are in the surrounding environment.

The participant dons a blindfold and set of headphones, and walks along a forest path. The listening box, held aloft with a pole, comes complete with 3D-printed bat ears, which are supposed to imitate the way real bat ears amplify sound. Throw in some custom sounds and bat recordings, and you have a unique – if disorientating – audio experience.in_the_eyes_of_animals_2_sandra_ciampone

(Above: In the Eyes of the Animal at Blue Dot Festival. CreditSandra Ciampone)

The live version of In the Eyes of the Animal took place as part of last weekend’s Bluedot Festival in Macclesfield. It’ll be on show at the Migrations festival in Cardiff until 4 August, and will then go abroad to South Korea, Belgium and Japan.

If you’re not able to make it to a real-life forest, you can still experience the VR side of the project thanks to an online version released by Abandon Normal Devices (AND) and The Space. It’s not online at the time of writing, but AND has said a downloadable version will be coming shortly for YouTube, Facebook and Google Cardboard via iteota.com.in_the_eyes_of_animals

(Above: In the Eyes of the Animal at Hamsterley. Credit: Sandra Ciampone)

In the Eyes of the Animal encompasses bats, dragonflies, frogs and owls. There’s no word yet on whether it will broaden to take in the perspective of, say, a chicken. That’s probably a good thing, as this rather excellent quote from director Werner Herzog will attest:

“Look into the eyes of a chicken and you will see real stupidity,” he said in his 2003 book, Herzog on Herzog. “It is a kind of bottomless stupidity, a fiendish stupidity. They are the most horrifying, cannibalistic and nightmarish creatures in the world.”

Chickens. Crossing roads. Being evil.

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