Dürrenstein Wilderness Reserve decided to build a visitor center, the Haus Der Wildnis or House of the Wilderness. The main mission of this center would be educating visitors about the value of wilderness and the importance of preserving and protecting wildlife habitats. Dürrenstein is home to one of the largest primeval forests in Central Europe and UNESCO world natural heritage.
Our challenge was to use immersive technology to highlight the importance of a virgin forest, namely the role of decay in the forest. This XR experience had to be a tool that helped people learn and understand how much life depends on dead trees. It had to visually show the importance of leaving trees to die on their own without human interference for nature to take its natural course and sustain its healthy cycle. In a nutshell, this VR or AR experience had to make people love, respect, and appreciate the life cycle of the wilderness.
Life After Death is an educational augmented reality (AR) installation that invites you to experience the beauty of decay and its importance in the life cycle of a healthy forest. Users can see both realities, the world of the living and the world of the dead, inside and out. They can experience how life ends for a tree and gives way for a myriad of other living creatures to flourish from its remains.
Life After Death begins with you standing next to a real dead tree and in front of 3 printed images of it, holding an iPad in your hands. Once you place the iPad in front of the 3 images, a digital representation of the dead tree appears in front of you. Once there, you can approach it, walk around it, and step inside it from up, down, and sideways, and through, witnessing the creatures and vegetation that live inside it. You can go "in-between worlds", by moving further and closer from the tree, seeing what lives outside and inside of it as if jumping from one reality to the other. At your own pace. For as long as you like.
Life After Death became part of the House of the Wilderness's permanent exhibition. Although the museum hasn't opened its doors yet (opening date May 2021), the installation got amazing reviews from the press and government representatives, such as the Austrian minister of tourism and sustainability who, after seeing it, said "wow. simply, wow." :)
Elisabeth Köstinger, Austrian Minister for Sustainability and Tourism