Google’s virtual reality – Tiltbrush, Earth VR and Pearl

Tiltbrush – ready your easel

This was one first VR titles I played after buying the Vive it instantly shows off its power as a platform. Your left hand is an easel with dozens of different functions and your right is your implement of choice. Drawing in a 3d space starts to feel normal sooner than you might think. I gave control to my friend Alex who has a bit more artistic talent and watched him draw a pretty convincing 3d phoenix.

There’s a couple of stand out features with tiltbrush, one of them being that you can save and share your creations and then watch them being painted again later in a kind of VR timelapse! You can even hold up a virtual camera and record GIFs straight to your desktop as you pan around your creation.

New Sketch_03

My efforts resulted in a far less impressive scene:

Newer features that Google are working on also include things like an eraser that lets you delete parts of virtual reality with each stroke. This results in a strokes of the real world appearing in VR using the Vive’s built in camera. It’s a weird effect and reminded me of how Philip Pullman describes The Subtle Knife in His Dark Materials trilogy.

I’m not sure if it’s on Google’s roadmap but adding some kind collaboration features could work really well here and would have obvious uses in fields like engineering, architecture or medicine.

Google Earth is the new crack

Seriously, it’s that addictive. Starting from a zoomed out perspective and zooming down you see the world from a skydivers perspective. Any reasonably built up or famous area is of course textured giving you a fantastic 3d perspective of any landmark you can think of. Within a few seconds you can zoom down from looking at the Hoover dam as if it’s a tiny model, to standing on the edge looking down at a vertigo inducing drop. Major cities are truly stunning, flying in between skyscrapers in New York and over central park is something that needs to be experienced to be believed.

At one point I was stood outside my apartment in London looking at the room that I was currently standing in, kind of a weird meta experience! Once Google step up their game with the quality of the imaging or maybe integrate street view with Google Earth somehow this will be an incredibly useful tool in many ways. A close friend works in a job that requires him to know the local area of some fairly remote places, he’s already suggesting this to his boss as a huge cost saver.

Pearl – A cool, slightly emo virtual roadtrip

Pearl won Google a couple of awards when it was released, it was even the first VR experience to be nominated for an Oscar. It’s quite a short and sweet seated experience that takes place entirely inside a car. The cool cell shaded look is complimented well by an infectious acoustic song that plays in the background. ¬†You follow a father and daughter as she’s growing up via the various trips the two take in the car.

Sitting in the front seat you can look around as various characters come and go. The scenery is cleverly done with a favorite part of mine being overtaking other cars on the motorway at night, passing in and out of tunnels. The visuals combined with a well chosen soundtrack make this a really immersive experience that’s definitely worth a go.

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