While VR is still seen by many as mainly for gaming, one of its most promising use cases is actually how it could enhance professional 3D creation workflows such as modeling, CAD, or animation.
In VR you have all the space around you for UI and content to float, rather than being restricted to your real world monitor setup. For CAD, 3D modeling, or animation, seeing objects in 3D with head tracking could make it easier to visualize the end result and reduce the time it takes to create.
But the most useful and popular 3D creation apps on PC, like Autodesk’s, have large, old codebases that would be costly to port to VR. For VR-only competitors it could take years or be too costly to match features with these leading design tools.
So at Connect 5, Oculus announced “Hybrid Apps” as an attempt to help with this problem. With Hybrid Apps, Oculus lets developers of non-VR PC software easily show their existing UI panes as floating elements in VR, and render any 3D objects in VR, with the Rift system software handling the VR rendering.
To prove out the idea, Oculus partnered with Allegorithmic, the developers of Substance Painter (a 3D painting tool). As a Hybrid App, Substance Painter’s UI floats in VR, while the user can rotate and paint the model with Touch controllers. Allegorithmic stated that it only took two weeks to add to the software.
A promising feature of Hybrid Apps is that users can toggle between desktop and VR on the fly by simply putting on or taking off the Rift, letting them leverage the advantages of each medium — text and details on the monitor, and 3D tasks in VR.
Of course, the limited resolution of current generation VR headsets is still a major roadblock to productivity- text is difficult to read and details would not be as clear as on a monitor.
According to Oculus the system uses elements from Dash, the Rift’s new menu system which relies on a number of techniques to achieve crisp visuals for a 2D panel in a virtual space.
How successful the Hybrid Apps venture is will depend on the willingness of PC software companies to take a leap into VR, but if it is adopted by major software packages, we could be entering an era of VR-enhanced 3D art creation sooner than expected.
David Heaney is a UK-based tech entrepreneur who has been following VR industry trends closely for years.