See the world as a dragonfly (and superpower yourself)

By Fabien

One of the great promises of VR is to make you become or feel like someone else, to create some kind of mega empathy machine. If you’re a man, you can become a woman and feel what it’s like to be seen, talked to and even loved as a woman. Or, you can become a Syrian refugee and better understand the forces pushing you to migrate from your home to an unknown place, a journey your ancestors may well have accomplished at one point or another.

Or, you can become a dragonfly.

For their latest VR project, Marshmallow Laser Feast place you into the body and behind the eyes of a flying insect. To begin the experience, you strap on a backpack and fit your head into a gigantic ball of moss.

Sit back comfortably and you’re off! You’ll discover new forms, different dimensions, and lots of colored dots in a limited range of colors. Flying at low speed reveals the contours of trees, particles of dusts and floating pollen, as alter bees and flies cross your path.

Dragonflies are believed to have visual receptors fit for a superhero with the ability to see UV and polarized light without sunglasses, and, of course, also a huge field of view (yes, flies can really see in 360°). The VR experience gives you a glimpse into a different visual reception. Which in turns questions your own conception of what constitutes “reality”. Is the reality seen by the dragonfly less or more real than a traditional human one ? Or more interestingly, how the experience of seeing as a dragonfly affects my human perceptions ?

“I can experience the DNA that flies have given me from millions of years ago when they first came into living.”

In the original setup, experiencers were taken into a forest, similar to the one scanned in the VR experience. When you popped in and out of the helmet, it truly gave you an augmented perception of the same place from the point of view of the animal. As well as admiring this amazing technical feat, I was also fascinated by the experience’ ability to rid us of our usual perceptions and the false sense that our perceived reality is the only one that matters. This notion truly feels like a prison, especially after sensing the dynamic wholeness of a beautiful forest. As a dragonfly, I could reconnect with my insect self and experience the DNA that flies gave me millions of years ago when they first came into being.

Suddenly, the scenery changes and you’re back on the ground. Your backpack rumbles loudly, massaging your whole body (what a great way to experience sub-bass!) A stream of white light filters through the leaves…

You’ve become a frog!

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Fabbula is a magazine about virtual reality, exploring new practices of storytelling, design, music and visual arts in the VR medium.