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Handheld Technology

Google's Tilt Brush: Finally, a magical VR experience

Last night something quite unexpected happened at the Kaleidoscope VR world tour in London. For the first time all my doubts about Virtual Reality went away and now I am seriously thinking it might be ready for us sooner than we think.

At the showcase, there were various sections with a few Virtual Reality headsets available to play with: the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear and HTC Vive with apparently 30 virtual reality experiences on offer. But even attempting to try out some of them was near impossible as the queues were frustratingly long and because of that very reason, you could strictly try out just one experience.

The experiences varied in length from as little as two minutes to as long as 12 minutes. I was torn between various options: should I go for 'Lucid Trips' where you can swim or even fly bodiless in a universe of dreams? Or shall I travel through the wonders of space?

Not satisfied with only getting one experience after queuing for what felt like hours, I attempted to negotiate the terms with the guy standing in front of the booth.

“How about I combine one short two minute one with a five minute experience?”

“No you can't do that,” the guy replied politely.

“Ok, how about I only do half of the 12 minute Lucid Trips?” I persisted.

“No, we are simply not offering the Lucid Trips,” he replied warily.

Ok, so he clearly was not budging. But if he wasn't offering it, why was it on the damn program? I thought to myself. That's like someone dangling sweets in front of your face and then taking it away at the last second.

One particular virtual reality experience was attracting the most attention though and now I can see why. It was Google's Tilt Brush which brings out your inner artist and lets you paint in 3D space.

At first I admit I was a little sceptical. Standing in the queue, you could see the canvas with paint appear on the desktop screens as various people tried it out. And it looked great - but I love space stuff and I wanted an experience like the one in the movie Gravity where I would be (hopefully) flying through the universe seeing amazing things. So I decided to go against the crowd and do my own thing. Space it was.

Well as fate would have it, the space application was not working properly so the guy suggested I try out Google's Tilt Brush. And I'm glad he did. I loved it.

I was given two controllers which hung from my wrists and I put on the HTC Vive headset with the headphones. In the past when I have tried the Samsung Gear headset, you lose all sense of bearings around you. But perhaps because it was in 3D, it didn't quite feel like that with this one and I felt quite comfortable walking around.

But when I got started with the painting – that was when the magic began. With my controller I pointed and clicked at the 3D palette in front of me and started painting in big sweeping gestures and soon I was surrounded with a plethora of bright colours. I could walk through them and under them. I felt like Leonardo Da Vinci creating my next artistic masterpiece.

The palette offered a multitude of options and it was easy to use. You could point and click on a colour easily, and try different brush strokes. One really cool part was the eraser function which erased anything you wanted. But my absolute favourite was the stars – maybe because it was so unexpected. As I waved the controller I soon had twinkling stars all around me that lit up my entire canvas in a beautiful way.

My prior experiences with VR, while fun, have often left me feeling nauseous afterwards, sometimes for as long as a few hours. So I was expecting it again with the HTC Vive on this one.

But you know what? Besides feeling giddy with excitement I didn't feel nauseous at all. Perhaps VR is not that far off after all, and with a few brush strokes and fine-tuning - the best VR moments are yet to come. And if this is just the beginning - I can't wait.

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Ayesha Salim

Ayesha Salim is Staff Writer at IDG Connect

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