Interactive Installation Mónica Mendes
Virtual Hug Mónica Mendes
Margarida Faria ---
Concept and Coordination
AZ labs collaborators Pedro Ângelo, Ricardo Lobo, João Carvalho, Margarida Faria, Maurício Martins
Local support @Maçal do Chão: Fernando Mendes
Local correspondents @Maçal do Chão: Valter Cruz, João Correia
--- Areas & Skills
Open Source Programming
Electronics & Physical Computing
Have you ever…? Hug@ree and engage into a playful symbiotic relationship with nature, for “Everyone should hug a real tree every now and then”
Hug@ree is an interactive installation that provides a bond between urban beings and the forest. Participants hug a real tree, triggering their registration in the virtual world for further interaction. Developed in collaboration with AZ labs members and local correspondents, Hug@ree is part of RTiVISS - Real-Time Interactive Video Systems for Sustainability – an experimental investigation actively reflecting on the questions: how can we propose constructive approaches to the destructive dynamics of fire that aggravate climate change? Can art foster awareness and respect for nature?
This immersive experience provides the interaction with trees and videos of trees in real-time, raising environmental issues in urban culture.
10/10/10 Global Work Party getting to work on the climate crisis with task analysis and usability tests towards RTiVISS most recent experience
Pop Up City Lab exhibition Its implementation also in Lisbon aims to express cities’ new values regarding sustainability in the present and future.
Codebits hackathon: Hug@ree Virtual Hug will allow participants to virtually hug a tree. They will be able to upload a photo of themselves, but their hug will only be made part of the world when a participant hugs a tree for real.
eARTh The RTiVISS symbolic contribution on this large scale action of climate art projects.
ArtropoCode Tecedeiras de Codigo Livre, Santiago de Compostela
[+ info] Hug@ree is a registration setup combining real trees with physical computing and users database in an interactive installation, whether the user is in the outdoors installation, or accessing online from a remote location. The aim is to collect information and feedback from visitors, a wide range of potential users providing data that will be useful for further developments.
"Everyone should hug a tree every now and then", a user comments on the Treehugger Project [Gradzik09] an environmental art project installation presented during the COP15 with organic sculptures – "tree huggers" – and the first one in line is hugging the tree to show that standing for the environment is a communal effort with a deeper level of meaning. That's precisely what Hug@ree proposes: a hug to a real tree, a playful metaphor of the symbiotic relationship between humans and nature.
In situ, by hugging a real tree through "body-tree contact", the visitor triggers a camera and a voice recorder, sending a photo and email contact to the users community database. The photo would be integrated in the user’s data, associated to the requested name and email, after being translated into text. In between, the user would have an immediate feedback of the recorded data, visualizing the photo in a small screen, and having the opportunity to confirm or correct the contact displayed after being processed through the “sensitive” voice recognition software. As an extension of this ephemeral visual, the system generates a physical output of the registration through a kind of polaroid with a small size printer that would print the photo as a "leaf" and mechanically transport it to its branches, where the new “user-leaf” is left together with the previously registered users.
The use of sensors and mechanic branches is inspired by Stelarc's virtual arm and third hand  that distribute the photos in the tree branches. Photos could be printed in PLA (polylactic acid), a material resistant to weather requirements in an outdoor environment, with the ecological advantage of being biodegradable, and the ethical coherence of being made of corn instead of paper.
The Hug@ree virtual correspondent for a registration from a remote place is accomplished online: when the user registers the email in an online platform, a video displays an avatar hugging a tree, while the camera of the user’s access device – a computer or a mobile phone – is activated and shoots a photo that is directly uploaded to the database. The goal is that the user would either identify himself with the video character, and feels the power to send an order to a virtual character that unquestionably obeys, confirming the interaction.
A more complex appealing approach to consider, though, is the “virtual” interaction to have more “real” outputs: not only the registration of the online user would be associated to the Hug@ree visitor that would be doing the same action in the real place, presented online in real-time, but also the photo would be sent to the tree-printer database, printed and put beside the other tree leafs.
This users-leafs gallery incubates a huge potential to motivate active exponential participation, for the users would also spread the word, inviting other participants and naturally expanding the network.
This reciprocity raises the possibility of establishing a direct communication channel by exchanging contacts – an option to propose to the moment-in-time coincident users, taking advantage of randomness and challenging “there are no coincidences” to a greater complicity, as in a blind date encounter.
In the whole, users reinforce the connection to the project through the first interaction, symbolizing a step towards action and positive consequences on the environment.