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Tilt Brush

Painting from a new perspective: Tilt Brush lets you paint in 3D space with virtual reality. Your room is your canvas. Your palette is your imagination. The possibilities are endless.

VR grows more interesting by the day; it’s encouraging to see the medium do more than port first-person shooters.

For example, this VR painting app (launching with the HTC Vive headset) is intriguing for both artists and art-lovers. Imagine stepping into a comic book or viewing a portrait from your preferred, alternative angle.

Be sure to check out the demo videos.

UPDATE: Watch Glen Keane play with Tilt Brush. Keane helped animate several classic Disney films (e.g. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast)

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‘DigiGirlz try out HoloLens at developer education session’

Here, teenaged girls get a developer-track introduction to Microsoft’s augmented reality platform. Afterwards, several participants explain how the experience makes them determined to pursue a career in tech.

This is inspiring stuff; it’s hard to imagine anyone objecting to the “DigiGirlz” program that made this possible. …Until you read the YouTube comments, that is.[1] Many of the top-voted remarks repeat the same question: “’DigiGirlz?! What about ‘DigiBoyz’?”

(The answer, of course, is that we’ve had “DigiBoyz” for decades. It’s called “the tech industry.”)


  1. Never read the comments.  ↩
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culture games technology Uncategorized

Dreams of Dalí

This might be the first time I’ve been genuinely intrigued by virtual reality. This Dalí Museum exhibit allows visitors to “go inside and beyond Dali’s 1935 painting Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s ‘Angelus’ and explore the world of the surrealist master like never before.”

Jean-François Millet’s seminal work Angelus haunted Dalí as a child, and there’s a nightmarish quality both to his painted meditation and to this digital recreation. Dalí’s signature surrealistic style translates well to VR; ironically, his abstract imagery somehow feels more real than a photorealistic equivalent might.

If you can’t make it to the Florida museum, check out the 360º video in the YouTube app on Android or iPhone; the on-rails experience tracks movement (via your phone’s accelerometer) and allows you to peer in any direction.

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Jurassic VR

You will always have a soft spot for the films you loved when you were twelve. For me, 1993 was the golden era of film-making. The Fugitive, released that year, remains my favorite Harrison Ford movie—even besting my beloved Star Wars and Indiana Jones series. Similarly, I could watch Groundhog Day a thousand times and still laugh out loud.

But one 1993 film had a bigger impact on me than any other: Jurassic Park. Unlike most movies, I can remember seeing it in the theater with my older brother. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; how had they created such believable monsters? Afterwards, I bought (and nearly out-wore) the all-symphonic soundtrack on cassette tape. The newly-released sequel, Jurassic World, even intrigues me, though the reviews say it’s middling at best. I still day-dream about the “science” cited in Park—whether geneticists might clone dinosaurs within my lifetime.

Spoiler alert: they won’t. Not in my lifetime—not ever. DNA degrades too quickly to survive sixty-plus million years. And even if we could somehow sequence a species’ DNA, we have no way to bring that animal to term. A real-life Jurassic Park will never happen.

So… what about “un-real” life? The film may provide the blueprint for a convincing dinosaur experience—in virtual reality. As technology advances, VR’s limitations become more apparent. Moving our material bodies around a digital landscape is awkward. There’s no convincing, seamless way to interact physically with these virtual environments, no “Holodeck” tech that could convince us that a freely-explorable Mesozoic landscape is real.[1]

But Jurassic Park’s marquee theme ride—the automated Jeep safari—provides the perfect constraints for a fully-engaging dinosaur experience in VR.

Of course, it wouldn’t be so much a game as a themed experience. Imagine climbing into the familiar jungle-painted SUV, then donning a set of VR goggles. Then you’d experience an on-the-rails ride through of Jurassic Park itself. You’d be locked inside the car—not for your safety, but to preserve the illusion. Within the constraints of the Jeep, you’d be free to customize your experience. You choose which window to gaze through. You could crane your head to gape up at a brachiosaur through the sunroof. You could peer through the rain to catch a glimpse of a feasting T-Rex. You could track a pterodactyl’s soaring flight across the sky through the windshield.

It’s a far cry from actual, living, roaring dinos. But it’s also the closest we’ll ever get to seeing them with our own eyes. If Steven Spielberg could create convincing dinosaurs on-screen twenty-two years ago, surely today’s visual effects wizards could do the same in VR.

One last bonus? Virtual dinosaurs always show up and perform on cue.


  1. Is Mesozoic still a thing?  ↩

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games technology Uncategorized

Living fiction

After decades of dreaming, virtual reality lies within reach. Valve, bastion of traditional PC gaming, now openly discusses a timetable ’til we have legit VR. Oculus, a VR headset start-up, has garnered accolades from the tech press. It’s no longer a question of “If we ever get VR,” but “When?”

What’s holding VR back? It’s not the visuals; we’re already close enough to photo-realism, even on the gaming console. The audio’s not a problem, either; games gamed CD-quality audio twenty years ago. Even the headset technology is catching up, packaging sight and sound into a light-weight, inexpensive package. No, the real problem is touch; how can you believe a virtual world that you can’t walk around or touch or climb?

Even without touch technology, I worry about VR addiction. Once compelling virtual worlds exist, will gamers escape dissatisfying real-world lives by slipping on their headsets? Too many young men already float through life in a gaming-centric haze, stumbling from bed straight into MMOs and FPSs, then back into bed again. Will affordable, convincing VR accelerate our decline into a Ready Player One dystopia?

Despite the risks to our humanity, and despite the remaining technological challenges, I find VR intriguing. My fascination has more to do with Star Trek than with the flashy neon worlds of Tron or Lawnmower Man. I don’t want a first-person version of traditional video games; I want the Holodeck. Picard, Data and the gang escaped into Sherlock Holmes mysteries, private eye capers, and high-seas adventure.[1]

I want to experience my favorite fiction, first-hand. Imagine having the ability to live into your favorite movies and TV shows—to try on your favorite roles. You might play Bilbo in The Hobbit, or Mikey from The Goonies. A tiny heads-up display would show you the script (if you needed it). Or maybe the AI would be more sophisticated, and non-player characters would understand your words and actions, then respond accordingly. You could rewrite the script. Go ahead; find out what happens if Bilbo refuses to pass along the Ring. Go ahead; let Chunk get killed. It’d be the ultimate Choose Your Own Adventure story.


  1. Holodeck episodes were reliably terrible. But the technology sparks my imagination.  ↩