IT SOUNDS slightly contradictory to emphasise the beauty of nature using cutting-edge technology, but innovators Marshmallow Laser Feast pull it off in style with digital exhibition Habitats.

The installation is split over three main parts including two virtual reality experiences. In the Eyes of an Animal and Treehugger respectively allow the visitor to embody four different creatures and explore the inside of a giant sequoia tree, one of the oldest organisms in the world. Specially-tailored headsets facilitate these mind-altering journeys.

It takes a while to acclimatise to the former, partly because it might not initially provide the experience you are expecting. Rather than a crystal-clear view of a forest floor, say, the picture is much more stylised, with multi-coloured dots coming together to form various sites in the natural habitat. At first the VR graphics seem underdeveloped and lacking in clarity but then (with a bit of assistance from the volunteers) the realisation dawns that this is roughly how the animals in question actually view their surroundings.

It sounds obvious, but it takes a while to remember that frogs, dragonflies and owls have vastly different perceptive facilities to humans. The sensory effect is accentuated by the VR equipment, especially the backpack that begins to vibrate in the dragonfly phase of the experience. In trying to drum up empathy for animals, Marshmallow Feast have set themselves a massive challenge. But this installation is genuinely ground-breaking; never before have we had such an insight into the inner processes of the creatures we take for granted.

Treehugger is less convincing; the sensation of travelling up a huge tree is undeniably thrilling but the actual content of the VR experience is less so; once you’ve felt your way into the centre of the sequoia using sensory hand-pads, the novelty soon wears off. More interesting is another VR installation in the bar of the Old Market, which gives a brief glimpse into the life of an Amazonian tribesman. The message here is simple but vital – we must save the rainforest.

Speaking of which, the main theatre space of the Old Market is mostly taken up by an innovative digital forest, featuring long rods which you can manipulate to create pleasing ambient sounds. As audience members set about making their own dreamy soundscapes, the beauty of nature is reiterated, albeit in a metaphorical sense.

It might seem like technology and the natural world are far removed from each other, but here Marshmallow Laser Feast bring the two together to powerful, poignant effect.