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What is Google Tilt Brush?

Tilt Brush got its name because in its earliest versions, you would draw or paint on a two-dimensional surface that could be tilted in any direction in virtual space.

But because the HTC Vive includes not just a virtual reality headset but also a pair of hand-held controllers and two tracking sensors that map your movement in space, the program was revamped to enable you to paint or draw anywhere within a room-sized area — no surface required.

One controller serves as a palette, with dozens of colors and effects; the other acts as a brush or pen. To watch someone use it is a bit unnerving, since the person appears to be making marks in midair, but you can’t actually see those.

But put on a Vive headset and step between the sensors yourself — as I did in a windowless room in Google’s New York offices — and the illusion of delusion disappears. Instead, you suddenly see what has been produced: a phantom creation in three dimensions, something you can walk around, walk through, poke your head inside, do everything except touch.

1. Dynamic brushes

The Tilt Brush app comes with a wide range of ‘Dynamic Brushes,’ and these make it possible to paint everything from stars to snow in a virtual 3D space. There’s also a handy colour picker that lets you paint using the colours of your choices. The brushes also include numerous designer stroke options, such as Hypercolor, Thick Paint and Rainbow.

2. Easy-to-use interface

Despite being seemingly complicated, Google’s Tilt Brush comes with a simple and intuitive user interface. Features are arranged in a hierarchal menu, and common options like Undo and Colour Picker are easily accessible. Some of the unique options include the Snapshot tool, which lets you take a screenshot and move it around in a virtual space.

3. Walk through your creations

Painting in a 3D environment isn’t really any good if you can’t immerse yourself in it. For this reason, Tilt Brush actually lets you ‘walk’ through your creations in the 3D virtual space. This lets you visualize the creations as floating colour strokes and shapes all around you. And it’s every bit as awesome as it sounds.

4. Easy sharing

If you’re going to create immersive 3D masterpieces, it only makes sense to share them with others. And thanks to Google Tilt Brush, this isn’t a problem. The app comes with handy options that let you share your 3D creations with others, both as full-room-sized VR ready creations and small animated GIFs.

5. Only for HTC Vive and Steam users

To use Google’s Tilt Brush, users need the HTC Vive VR headset. In addition to that, the headset also needs to be configured with a Steam account beforehand. That’s because the app is available only through the Steam software distribution platform. However, moving forward it’s quite possible that the app comes to other VR headsets (e.g. Oculus Ri) as well.

After its original release on the HTC Vive back in 2016, Tilt Brush quickly became a mainstay of headset demos. It’s easy enough to start painting basic 3D structures, but in the years since, artists have painted some pretty stunning pieces in the app. The Quest version of Tilt Brush will continue to support uploads to Poly, Google’s online 3D object library, if you want to share your work, or just gawk at what others have made.

Google says Tilt Brush for the Oculus Quest will be released this spring, which is also when we expect the Quest headset itself to be released (although Facebook has yet to make an official announcement). Google hasn’t announced any pricing for the new version of the app, but if you’ve already bought it on the Oculus Store — where it currently retails for $19.99 — then your purchase should transfer over to the new headset.


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