The Orchard of Communal Luxury

A simulacrum of Paradise

Introduction

When I think about Fallen Fruit's recent project "The Endless Orchard", the project of planting fruit trees across the vast expanse of Los Angeles, I am reminded of Los Angeles's endless highways, the ever expanding grid, how L.A. seems to extend forever from an airplane. I also think about how Los Angeles is a networked city, how the production that Los Angeles is famous for — television, video games, music and art — is endlessly reproducible via digital means, and circulated via those digital networks.

Lately I have been developing software for the HTC Vive: a cutting edge, room-scale Virtual Reality system. I began thinking about how I could apply my Technology-Art background to Fallen Fruit's artistic/activist/architectural work in a way that speaks to Los Angeles's endless, networked and digital nature.

Here is the a rough outline of a project I would like to do with Fallen Fruit.

Project Description

The Orchard of Communal Luxury is a multi-sensory experience utilizing room scale virtual reality, scent and eventually physical objects with augmented reality overlays to put participants into a simulated paradise.

Users will experience a verdant orchard, with fictional and hyperreal fruits and flowers that they can actually smell. A binaural soundtrack of bucolic sounds and gentle ambient music played on headphones will cover the din of the art gallery. As the project develops interactive elements (such as items that respond to looks or touches by the user) will be added.

While inside the simulation viewers can contemplate the real and the virtual, what we consider natural and unnatural, and technology’s ability to express spiritual experience.

The Orchard of Communal Luxury will be developed in phases and iterated across multiple installations.

Initial Project

user on simulation floor, with scent stations placed around them
user on simulation floor with virtual reality overlay

The first phase of the project will include:

  1. An HTC Vive Room Scale VR setup and PC, set up as close as possible to its maximum simulation-floor size (5 meters by 5 meters) as the space will allow.
  2. Several Scent Stations set up in various positions through the simulation-floor. A Scent Station will be a piece of paper or a foam object infused with a surreal or hyper-real scent. They can be hung from the ceiling (to simulate a piece of fruit on a tree) or placed on an easel (to simulate the smell of a flower bush).
  3. These physical elements will be calibrated to a virtual reality simulation written in Unity 3D. Each scent station will have a virtual object related to it— a strange looking flower will have an equally strange scent, a fruit will be the hyper-real version of itself. In the first stage, we will ask users to not touch the scent stations, but as we iterate we will be able to add more interactions.
  4. The simulation floor will be set up in a section separated from the rest of the gallery to prevent users in virtual reality from bumping into or tripping over other people or objects. After a brief orientation by a chaperone, and helping the user into the headset and headphones, they will be allowed to wander through paradise for a set period (probably 3-10 minutes).

FURTHER DEVELOPMENT

user in VR goggles with object
user in simulation with augmented overlay

The piece will evolve over several iterations to find early bugs and deliver a more seamless experience each time.

Some new experiences could be: