As we all know, the platform for virtual reality is yet to be fully proven. Futurologists predict that within the next 10 years, virtual reality will reach a point of practicality and affordability to the extend where everyone will have one. similar to how smartphones have taken over our lives currently. Anyone read ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline? That piece of fiction may not be so far from our future reality.
For now, all of us here at SouthernGFX have had the pleasure of testing several creative virtual reality experiences for Oculus Rift and the introduction of the touch controllers are definitely a huge step in the right direction (as stated in our previous blog post). Oculus Medium has been our main application for testing due to our background in 3D modelling and character concept design. During our initial tests, it was discovered that Medium is carrying masses potential due to how versatile and easy to use the software is. This potential is translated into a platform for artistic visualisation which is fun and extremely rewarding Especially when our own Glen Southern is sculpting creature concepts within an hour, such as the one in the video below. In this video, he goes through the full process of sculpting a piece of this scale and gives recommendations of correct workflow and small introductions to useful tools within the application.
In comparison to our main software of use ZBrush (Pixologic), there are some noticeable tools and features missing of which would very easily help Medium compete with other 3D sculpting software if included.
The features lacking in the current build are as follows…
- Move tool
- Reference images in VR
- Multiple lights
- Naming layers
- Snap to grid y/x/z when using the line
The lack of multiplayer is also a big miss for Medium which is a shame. Imagine if you have a 3D asset to complete for a deadline and you have a small team to assist you with this project. Now imagine if you could work on the same project at the same time with the actual asset in front of you all in a virtually physical form. This mode is dearly missed but will be expected in a future update.
Taking these negatives out of the equation, its easy to see how Medium is beginning to start a trend in the 3D artist community. Being able to draw out clay right in front of you is satisfying and simple. Each tool that you’ll use has its own unique sound which implies its function. The Clay tool sounds like you’re spraying foam, while the Swirl tool sounds like a whirling electric mixer, and the Cut tool sounds like a buzzing electric wire. Most tools also change sound when you’re drawing in open space compared to inside a volume of mass. The Clay tool for instance will have a muffled foam spraying sound when your tool is inside a mass vs. outside. It’s an effective touch which helps you understand what your tool is doing and where it’s being used audibly in addition to visually. And with the addition of the touch controllers, you feel grounded within the virtual reality world in front of you. You become well and truly fully immersed.
Medium in its current form can’t completely replace desktop sculpting applications, but it does deserve a place in the professional workflow as an idea visualiser. The UI is clean, the development team is responsive and open to queries, and the things the VR community are making continues to push our understanding of what this early build is capable of, and where it’s heading.
As someone who is fairly sceptical when it comes to emerging technology such as 3D TV’s, I was finding it difficult to comprehend the possibility of a Kickstarter funded virtual reality company sparking a technological revolution. Not anymore. All current VR platforms are already getting cheaper and more sophisticated with each year that goes by. Once it goes fully mainstream, it won’t just change how we consume entertainment. It will change how we live.