Tilt Brush is the System-Seller the HTC Vive Needs

by Ian Hamilton • April 5th, 2016
Positives

- Intuitive interface
- Endless uses
- Highly polished
- Deep and varied brush types
- Spectator mode helps others see what you're making

Negatives

- Can only create static works of art
- Can't share a space with someone else virtually yet

Tilt Brush is the piece of software that convinced me to pre-order the HTC Vive. I placed my pre-order believing this software from Google to be the first example of a soon-to-be-very-large subset of VR experiences — creativity tools. I’ve been using it on a Vive Pre for the last few days and it’s pretty clear the software will introduce a great many people to the idea that VR can be used for more than just entertainment or education.

Tilt Brush costs $30 but is bundled with Vive pre-orders.

Tilt Brush can unleash human creativity

The software teaches each new user the basic functions — sketch with one hand and access tools on the other. I haven’t seen anyone unable to figure it out and I know some fairly tech-phobic people. Drew Skillman and Patrick Hackett started building Tilt Brush relatively early on during VR’s renaissance.

Here’s what an early version looked like:

Skillman and Hackett took their talents to Google and the software they were working on flourished. Now it may be the first consumer VR creation platform for tracked hand controllers. Bundled free with Vive pre-orders, the software lets Vive-equipped creators sketch out a kind of 3D sculpture across a room.

A spectator mode shows others in the room what someone inside Tilt Brush sees. Hook up spectator mode to a streaming service like Twitch and a potentially global audience could watch you make things live. Spectators see an outline of your head-mounted display and controllers moving through space. This simple avatar seems to come to life when it’s animated by real-life head and hand movements. You could play a game of Pictionary with friends or take requests over the Internet for a live interactive art show. Talk to your viewers using a microphone.

Works you make in Tilt Brush can be shared as GIFs or screenshots for traditional consumption on social media. You can also save a sketch and let someone else put on the headset to see the making-of. After a fast-forward replay of the artwork coming together, the new artist can take the artwork in a different direction.

With enough talent, or practice, you could produce breathtaking works of art. Or just play a game of Pictionary. It’s up to you. Using the built-in spectator mode, it’s very likely people will come up with some very cool ways to do something fun with Tilt Brush.

Making tools so people can create stuff while immersed in VR is being explored by a lot of companies, including Facebook (Oculus Medium, Quill), Google, toolset makers Unity and Epic Games, and a host of startups.

It’s still very early days, but this first public version of Tilt Brush lays the foundation for a new class of art and creativity tool. So far, only a small number of people — most of them game developers — had access to Tilt Brush prior to the consumer launch of the HTC Vive. Now it’s time to see what happens when many thousands of people get their hands on this software.

Every great computing platform needs creativity tools like Microsoft Paint and Adobe Photoshop, and Tilt Brush is the first of its kind for VR. I think the next few months are going to surprise even Skillman and Hackett when they see the ways people will use this kind of creativity tool.

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