Academy Xi Blog

Google’s Tilt Brush: A new artistic medium, or something more?

By Academy Xi

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At its core, Tilt Brush is a new way of visualising and creating.

Technology and innovation have long been shaping art. A sparkle of innovation, the humble paint tube, brought impressionist painters outdoors – en plein air; if such a shift didn’t take place we’d be without masterpieces like Monet’s Garden (which you can probably visit in VR, by the way).

We then saw the invention of early forms of photography, which influenced art away from realistic representation. In the latter half of the 20th century, iterations of digital imaging software have paved the way for entirely new digital mediums.

Fast-forward to the present day and we have this entirely new, and incredibly exciting, marriage between art and Virtual Reality tech. You can now draw sweeping marks through 3D space; walking into, and around, your own floating brush strokes. Describing the experience doesn’t really do it justice; painting in space is unlike anything else.

Jane Venegas Sproule, Academy Xi’s VR Course Curator, identified a recurring pattern of use; newcomers to Tilt Brush often follow the same routine. The first use is playful, trying out new brushes and creating unintelligible squiggles. The second try becomes more sophisticated, but is still stuck in 2D; students draw in one plane, as if on a big, floating piece of paper. Jane explains, “by (at least) the 3rd try, students begin to better understand and effectively use space and a 3rd dimension.” Having only tried Tilt Brush once, I’m still at the squiggle stage. This transition into 3D can take some getting used to, Jane points out:

“It’s understandably difficult to get used to an extra dimension; the Screen has dominated our lives since the invention of the TV. We are all very accustomed to smartphones and laptops”

Taking a step back from the wonder of it all, you can start thinking about the implications Tilt Brush could have on the way we work, live and play – replacing our 2D digital landscape with this new 3D interaction. Companies are beginning to play with this idea of a Virtual Workspace – but there’s still a lot of room for development.

Tilt Brush was released in April this year. Now on its 7th upgrade, Tilt Brush’s newest features nicely sum up how VR is progressing. You can now work in teams, import and export objects, resize your virtual space, and virtually swap controllers. VR creators are allowing users to transcend physical limitations – allowing us to play with scale and space. “What started as a playful VR experience, is becoming a functional tool”, points out Jane, “the applications for prototyping, collaboration and idea visualisation are endless.” Imagine virtually collaborating on a prototype, with team members from across the globe. 

The main takeaway:

Virtual Reality is a blossoming technology that continues to wow. Virtual Reality’s crescendo has become audibly hard to ignore – new and intriguing applications for VR are teaching young mindstreating PTSDhelping paraplegics walk, and even stimulating tastebuds! We’re excited to see how apps like Tilt Brush develop and grow in the future.