Unique Places to Save needs your help to raise $25,000 to design and launch a Virtual Reality Tree Experience at Keith Arboretum.

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Imagine visiting a beautiful arboretum with your family one spring day. At the Virtual Tree Lab, each of you puts on a Virtual Reality headset and stands at the foot of a towering (3D digital) hickory tree in a virtual forest.  With one jump, you all soar to the top of the tree to observe its canopy leaves in detail. Then you descend the trunk and limbs for a close up look at its bark. Finally, you reach the base again for a subterranean look at its roots. Then the REAL fun begins….

You walk outside with your family through one of the most incredibly diverse collections of temperate trees and shrubs in North America. Your mission is to search the 19-acre arboretum and identify 5 different species of hickory trees from 5 different countries (US, Canada, Mexico, China, India) within half an hour. Your Virtual Tree experience has given you a sense of what trees to look for. In your hands, a tablet is your state-of-the-art Augmented Reality digital tree guide that allows you to scan the leaf and the bark of each tree to search for a match. If you succeed, your family will take home a wooden coaster made of hickory wood! Next month you’ll all be back to search for 7 species of oak from 7 countries, in hopes of taking home your oak coaster. After a few more successful visits, your family will have a full set of coasters to remember the hickories, oaks, and other tree species you learned. How COOL would that be?

THAT is the type of unforgettable experience you will be helping us to create with your contribution to the Virtual Tree Experience project. When Dr. Charles Keith started his tree collection more than 40 years ago, he hoped he would be creating a legacy for the community – the Virtual Tree Experience ensures that it is a legacy for the 21st century!  The Keith Arboretum and the mature forest of the adjoining Pickard’s Mountain Natural Heritage Area are true community assets that can benefit everyone — families, schools, university students, and elders. Together, we can develop a leading model for using technology to reconnect people to the natural world! The Pokemon Go craze was just the beginning – we can be smart about using technology to get us back into the great outdoors and develop a lifelong connection to the ecosystems that support all life.

We need your help today!  We are working on plans for the Virtual Tree Lab at the Keith Arboretum. We have assembled a powerful team of pioneering tech companies in the Carolinas with expertise in virtual/augmented reality and 3-D digital tree graphics.  Now we are ready to design Version 1.0 to prove the concept!

Hit the donate button to make your contribution to the Virtual Tree Experience today.