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Google Is Quietly Turning VR Into A Real Creative Tool

Build it in VR. Put it in anything.

  • 01 /03
  • 02 /03
  • 03 /03

Google’s Tilt Brush—which the company bought in 2015—is still virtual reality’s most compelling app, allowing you to draw in midair at the scale of an entire room. So far, though, everything made inside Tilt Brush has mostly been stuck inside Tilt Brush—without simple work flows to import it into games and VR movies.

This week, that changes, as Google is releasing what it calls the Tilt Brush Toolkit. It's a grab bag of code Google originally developed for internal use. Enticingly, it allows you to draw something in Tilt Brush, then bring it into the popular Unity engine—used in 3D software development and a large chunk of modern games. You can also recreate Tilt Brush’s effects, including all of it shaders and audio-reactive drawings, in Unity with Google’s newly provided scripts.

The team suggests a few use cases. If you’re a game developer who isn’t too good at 3D modeling, you could go into Tilt Brush, sketch up what you need, and bring it right into your Unity game. Or if you drew an environment that you thought would make an incredible story in Tilt Brush, you could export it all into Unity to make add some basic interactive functions. Google has demonstrated a rudimentary racing game built from Tilt Brush assets, along with an interactive dungeon that allows you to open a sketched treasure chest.

"Our goal . . . is to let people take their standalone, static sketches and make awesome interactive, narrative, or immersive experiences with them," says Elisabeth Morant, Tilt Brush product manager.

As of today, Tilt Brush has little to no competition in 3D sketching—though smaller prototyping platforms like GravitySketch and Storyboard VR are cropping up. That's likely because VR's installation base is so small. The bleeding-edge HTC Vive, on which Tilt Brush runs, only has about 150,000 units in the wild. (Samsung's cheaper, more popular Gear VR has sold 5 million units, and Google's own Cardboard VR has sold about the same number, but neither has the motion controls needed for Tilt Brush.)

Tilt Brush Toolkit is admittedly a small step toward Tilt Brush becoming something akin to an Illustrator or Photoshop for the VR or 3D world, but it does seem to cement Google’s intent for its pioneering software—to see Tilt Brush become a place to not just build some trippy art to share with other Tilt Brush users, but a platform that can be the first step toward creating any immersive story you want to develop.

[All Images: via Google]

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