Flee to the Tree

“Flee to the Tree” is a virtual reality (VR) exploratory experience designed for HTC Vive and other room-scale devices. Its purpose is to explore design strategies for navigating uneven terrain and vertical space with a scenario motivated by fear of a colossal virtual creature. Interactors start off at the base of a tree and are threatened by a giant woodpecker. By escaping into the tree, they discover a magical environment that they can explore and learn to overcome their fears along the way.

In addition to designing a multi-level vertical space within an organic environment, we reinforced the danger of navigating an uneven terrain by utilizing physical props and VR foot trackers. We based the physical props on a Japanese study (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6Lv6HQCvZ8) in which they use small physical bumps on the ground to simulate the sensation of climbing stairs. In our case, we use scaled, thin platforms to give visuo-haptic feedback and reinforce the feeling of being on a small platform suspended high above the ground. By seeing one’s “feet” moving in the virtual space and receiving haptic feedback once one steps on a platform, this creates a more realistic, and thus frightening, experience.

Students: Samantha Marie Hudock, Xiuxiu Yuan, Vi Tuyet Nguyen, Xiangqi Liu