For this investigation, I decided to explore Google Blocks for my first introduction to VR 3D object creation. The software was incredibly intuitive for a beginner and I was pleasantly surprised that it did not depend on learning a bunch of hotkeys to make objection creation fast streamlined. Compared to Quill’s confusing and complicated interface with its many settings and variables, Google Block’s simple interface was fast to pick up and allowed my first modelling attempt to have a much better result than I had expected. Colouring was satisfied with the paint palette accessible at the flip of your hand, adding and creating new objects felt satisfying and modular, and the stroke tool although low poly was smooth to use. I had thought it would be more difficult to navigate depth and space within the VR environment, but Google Block’s visualization of proximity and overlap detection made modelling feel natural.
Still, there were a couple of editing tools that I had difficulty getting the hang of. I wish that there is a clearer way to learn how to use all the tools without having to do the tutorial again (Quill, despite its complexity, did have a hotkey/tool instructions window that could be opened at any time). Due to the simplicity of the interface, a preview and further effect window could show up when the creator hovers over one of the initial tools for an extended time period (similar to Photoshop). In my opinion, the modify and grab would have benefited the most with a tool preview, because each tool has a wide variety of functions. For the modify tool, I quickly understood how to move faces, vertices, and edges, but I was never aware you could subdivide the element of an object or how to go about doing it. I also wish that Google Blocks had a function to subtract shapes from an existing object, to easily create custom shapes (especially ones with round indentations).
At the beginning of my session in Google Blocks, I played around with all the tools to get used to them. Even then, as I mentioned above, I was unable to discover all of them. I had looked up Google Blocks before I dove into the software and was amazed at how capable it was. In 2017, the Google Blocks team managed to fully develop a sci-fi puzzle game, called “Block Isles”, in two weeks using assets made in the software and Unreal Engine. So, as much as I loved experimenting with the tools which resulted in an extremely abstract model, I wanted to try making an actual asset. I decided to start off simple with a tree made up of cylinders and spheres. I had a lot of fun finessing how to rotate and scale objects to create clusters of branches and “leaves”.
Overall, I felt the creative pipeline within Google Blocks was very intuitive and straightforward. First, you add the basic forms of what you want to model, in their respective base colour (no airbrush painting), then you use the modify and grab a tool to make alter the shapes to your liking (make them more organic), and finally, you can add more details with the paint tool. After the object asset is created it can be easily saved. These objects can be then imported into a new Google Blocks scene to set up an environment directly in the software. This is on top of how all individual forms that make up the finished model can still be rearranged in a game engine or 3D modelling program (as shown in my screenshot of the tree imported in Unity).
Show It 2 Me
Show It 2 Me was an extremely fun music video VR experience. The neon almost psychedelic illustrations and animations made in Google’s Tilt Brush was both a fun and fascinating ride (literally at times). During the experience, there was little actual interaction. Interaction including creating strokes of the pink and blue gradient as you uncontrollably move through the world and grabbing daggers that rained from the sky. This experience was very linear and the assets repetitive, so I was not surprised that the developers posted a 360 video on Youtube, that was just as enjoyable and did not feel at all lacking next to the VR version.
Travelling While Black
Travelling While Black, like Show It 2 Me did not have any meaningful interaction with the environment and could have easily been a normal 360 or normal video, yet the VR platform definitely enhanced the experience of it. The VR documentary did a great job of utilizing 360 videos, but without much 3D world, to get the viewer invested. As shown above, it appears that most effects were done either in production (while filming the scenes) and in post-production programs like after effects. I am really fascinated with how old footage seemed to be projected directly on the walls and ceiling of the diner. At first, I thought it was done in the pose, but the shadows of the ceiling fan appear so realistic. As a viewer, the point of the documentary is to go on a journey with the interviewed, so the effect of sitting with the subjects of the documentary and experiencing the environment like they would have was very eye-opening.
SENS (Chapter 1)
SENS had the most interaction out of everything I experienced. Controlling the direction the character was going with just my gaze and the head tracking was very relaxing. Sometimes, the amount of time it took to get from one destination to another felt very long, but I think this mechanic was meaningful. I loved how simple it was with repetitive directional arrow motif guiding your way. I also, really enjoyed how seamless and unjarring it was to shift between first and third-person views.
Unframed: A Virtual Reality Series About Swiss Painters
Unframed was a peaceful experience. There was no player interaction, so all I could do was stand and let it transport me through the history of the paintings. I enjoy seeing paintings come to life. I feel that if an experience like Unframed was applied to photographs it would create a great opportunity to add 360 videos.