Google’s Tilt Brush Officially Comes to Rift on Oculus Home

by Joe Durbin • February 21st, 2017

Google’s popular virtual reality art program Tilt Brush is launching for the Oculus Rift headset with Oculus Touch controllers. The experience can be purchased today in Oculus Home for $29.99.

Tilt Brush, which lets users create and share three dimensional works of art in real time using a VR headset and tracked hand controllers, has been available for HTC’s Vive VR platform since the system launched on April 5 of last year.

The software’s gripping visuals and intuitive controls quickly made it a mainstay of the early VR scene. Many first timers visit Tilt Brush as their first experiences, and Google’s savvy marketing for the product helped the world understand what VR is and why it matters.

Tilt Brush has become something of a mascot for VR and won several awards for its achievements. For its entire lifespan, however, it has been associated with the Vive. It was limited to one headset based on the hardware limitations of the others. Now, however, Google has officially brought Tilt Brush somewhere other than Vive for the very first time.

According to Elisabeth Morant, the product manager for Tilt Brush at Google, the Rift new version of the beloved software has been in the works for quite some time.

“We learned about the Touch controllers when they were announced and since then we started thinking about how to bring Tilt Brush to Rift,” Morant explained during an interview with UploadVR. “It’s actually easier to go from Vive to Rift than to a non PC platform VR platform. A lot of the problems for Tilt Brush were already figured out.”

This is not to say that the process was easy. According to Morant, the Rift port of Tilt Brush hit its fair share of bumps along the way.

“The biggest challenges were usability and optimizing for these new controllers,” Morant said. “For example, on the Vive we have the thumb pad which represents a large target on which you glide your thumb from left and right. Touch, however, uses joysticks which took time to utilize as effectively.”

PlayStation VR support for Tilt Brush has been studied by Morant and her team as well. But, according to her, “there are some things about PS VR that make it more challenging than PC-based VR for Tilt Brush…right now the tracking is not really up to what we need as a creative team.”

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The other big challenge Morant said she and her team faced during production was “the room scale question.”

The Rift and Vive use very different methods for tracking a user in 3D space. The Vive’s laser-focused “lighthouse” system is able to create what is known as “room scale” VR, or VR in which one can walk several steps in any direction and turn around in 360 degrees. The Rift with Touch, on the other hand, uses an infrared “constellation” system that requires at least two sensors in its most basic form and typically limits you to 180 turns. If you turn all the way around your body will block your controllers from the sensor and you will lose tracking in an experience.

It is possible to hook up additional sensors in order to attempt full 360 room scale for the Rift, but that setup has been having performance issues. Because of these limitations, Morant explains that she and her team knew they had to tweak Tilt Brush at a basic level in order for it to run properly in a 180 setup.

You can hold down both grip buttons on your Touch controllers to “grab” the world. Once you’ve done this, you can rotate the space around you or stretch the world from squirrel to dinosaur size.

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We’ve had the chance to try Tilt Brush for Oculus Rift and besides the 180 tweaks the experience is unchanged from the Vive version with all of the robust features and artistic fun left intact.

Tilt Brush on the Rift represents a new era for Google VR. Up until today, it has only released software for Google’s own Daydream platform or the Vive. When asked what this means for Google’s other major experience, Google Earth VR, a spokesperson for the company wrote:

“We are actively exploring how to bring Earth to more platforms. We want to make sure that every platform we release on is a great experience, and that takes time. Stay tuned!”

Morant echoed this sentiment by saying:

“From the start, we designed Tilt Brush to be platform agnostic. That’s why it doesn’t use the Steam keyboard or friends list…Google wants VR as a platform to succeed and bringing Tilt Brush to as many high quality platforms as possible is part of that…With today’s launch we’re excited to bring Tilt Brush to more people. We’re only at the very beginning of what it means to develop for Tilt Brush.”

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