What this Disney artist’s breathtaking video means for VR

by Ian Hamilton • September 11th, 2015

Glen Keane is the artist who animated some of Disney’s most famous characters, including Ariel in The Little Mermaid and Beast in Beauty and the Beast. A new video making the rounds posted by the Future of StoryTelling offers a perspective on virtual reality that few have seen so far. Namely, we see Keane, an artist whose reach with traditional drawn media can hardly be matched in modern times, jumping head-first into this new medium.

This video is a must watch and, if you’ve already seen it, it’s probably worth watching again:

What’s beautiful to me about this video is its extraordinary ability to put into personal terms what creativity means to an accomplished artist while at the same time using zero technical jargon to show how easily his artistry can span mediums.

The app is Tilt Brush, whose developers Patrick Hackett and Drew Skillman now work at Google, and the thing he strapped to his face is the Vive made by HTC with software from Valve. In somewhat the same way Keane’s drawings flipping across pages creates the illusion of movement, nearly 100 times every second that Keane is in VR his head is tracked by lasers, his movement is fed to a graphics chip and a corresponding image is spit out in front of each of his eyes.

The most astonishing thing to watch in this video is how none of that matters anymore.

VR is beyond the developer stage where we have to make excuses for its limitations and explanations for how it all works. Instead, the technology disappears and an artist’s arm and hand movements are able to paint a scene in the space around him, bringing to life a character that’s an expression of something deep inside himself.

VR is already the subject of art exhibitions and Tilt Brush is doing an excellent job of opening up minds to the possibilities of the medium. Check out this psychedelic creation for another cool example from Tilt Brush

And as inspirational as it is, Tilt Brush is just one among a world of apps (See: ViveCraft and Fantastic Contraption) on their way to unlock the inner child in all of us.

The joke among virtual reality researchers was that next year is always the year when VR finally arrives. After watching videos like these, it’s clear that all VR needs now is to go on sale to the public.

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