Harvest Tree


Chicago Ideas Week Conference / The Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art

In partnership with the Chicago Ideas Week conference, Harvest Tree is a digital installation at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art projecting a graphically abstracted digital tree

In partnership with the Chicago Ideas Week conference, Harvest Tree is a digital installation at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art projecting a graphically abstracted digital tree that evolves and reacts to the world around it – people in the room, movement, audio, Tweets all affect aspects of the tree through its perpetual life cycle.

As part of Leo Burnett’s sponsorship of the Chicago Ideas Week conference – a series of thought leadership, technology and innovation talks throughout the city – Leo Burnett were offered space in the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, originally to hang a poster. The Leo Burnett Department of Design wanted to do something more exciting, so they came to the Leo Burnett Creative Technology team to see what could be done.

The Department of Design had the seed of an idea – a living, growing digital tree. We quickly brainstormed and fleshed out the rest of the idea that this would be a reactive installation, feeding off the energy at the conference. We had three weeks to go from initial concept to delivery, so we set up a war room for designers and developers to live, to simultaneously design and developed the solution on the fly.

The final piece was a large wall projection installation, displaying a real-time programatically generated digital tree. The tree was made to react to various sensory inputs from the surrounding world and the activity of the people viewing it.

The more people that came into the room, the larger and more mature the tree grew, gaining branches, twisting and turning, boughs thickening. Laser trip beams monitored the flow of traffic into and out of the gallery space. As people left, the tree would shrink back to a sapling.

As people moved around the room, their collective movement was tracked and measured through visual sensors and cameras. The more movement in the room, the more the tree would start to bend and sway in the wind.

With the growing level of noise in the room, leaves grow out of the branches with increasing volume. If the audio sensors detect a drop in the level of conversation in the room, then the leaves began to wilt and fall from the tree.

The system constantly monitors Twitter for specific hashtags which would cause fruit and flowers to blossom on the tree, encouraging the audience to interact through their mobile devices.

Through the use of fractal algorithms, every generation and iteration of the tree structure is always unique. The custom visual rendering engine incorporates Lindenmayer systems, Voronoi tessellations, triangular surface subdivision, Perlin noise and inverse kinematics to create a cohesive yet dynamically morphing system of infinite variation.

Behind the scenes look at the Harvest Tree with the people who created it

Direct feed of the the Harvest Tree growing through a complete life cycle

The tree was made to react to various sensory inputs from the surrounding world and the activity of the people viewing it

The more people that came into the room, the larger and more mature the tree grew

As people moved around the room, their collective movement was tracked and measured

The system constantly monitors Twitter for specific hashtags which would cause fruit and flowers to blossom

Through the use of fractal algorithms, every generation and iteration of the tree structure is always unique

A war room was set up so that designers and developers could sit side-by-side during the rapid development process

See more of Miles Green's work