Google wants to make it easier for VR/AR app developers to create 3D objects with its new app revealed today called Blocks, a program designed to let you build assets for the immersive mediums from within the VR headset itself.
Creating objects for VR is traditionally done on a 2D screen with the aide of relatively complex modeling programs like Blender or ZBrush, and while these programs have gotten more user-friendly throughout the years, there’s nothing quite like building something with your own two hands and viewing it naturally from different angles like you would any physical model. Today Google is launching Blocks for free for both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive in effort to let VR headset owners easily create low-poly 3D objects in the time it takes you to come up with an idea.
Creations can be exported as a standard OBJ file so developers can easily plug them into their AR or VR projects. Blocks also lets you share your creations to the web, generate an animated gif to display your work, and re-mix examples from their VR objects developers portal.
Google says Blocks is designed to “feel more like playing with children’s blocks than working with traditional 3D modeling software. Starting with a simple set of shapes, a color palette, and an intuitive set of tools, you’re able to naturally and quickly create almost anything you can imagine, from a piece of watermelon to a whole forest scene.”
I got a chance to play with Blocks before public release, and even though I’m a complete novice in modeling software, within only 30 minutes I had created a fairly complex object—not a good one by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s really more on me as a not-incredible artist. For my first time though (including the tutorial), it was surprisingly quick and easy.
Much like Google’s critically acclaimed Tilt Brush (2016), the company’s 3D paint program, Blocks offers a bevy of tools, basic textures and shapes to choose from so you can construct whatever’s in your imagination. And just like Tilt Brush, using your own two hands to create is simple and incredibly natural.
Modifying and resizing the few bits of geometry I chose was as easy as selecting the modifier tool with my left controller and grasping a vertex, shape face or edge with my right controller in order to stretch and form the model into any complex shape (within reason to avoid too many collisions). Re-scaling the object was activated by an intuitive pinch-and-zoom movement using both controllers.
Being able to create and export my new low-polygon-count object and toss it into whatever program I want, including Tilt Brush and Windows stock modeling program 3D Builder (among many, many others), really makes me want to start creating my own characters, objects, and avatars. The thought of 3D printing them excites me even more, like conjuring something from thin air through an act of digital alchemy.
If you already own either an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive and want to start building, you really don’t have an excuse now not to start creating pieces of your virtual world.