What if you could take the magical sense of creativity evoked by Tilt Brush and share that with someone else, online, simultaneously, using nothing but your hands for input? That’s the ethos behind developer Mike Harris’ latest project, StrangersVR.
If you’d said to me 4 years ago that one of virtual reality’s most widely applauded early applications would be a painting program, I’m not sure I’d have believed you. Nevertheless, the simple desire to let people express themselves immersively and intuitively gave rise to Google’s Tilt Brush, now a ‘go to’ application for introducing people to virtual reality and an unexpected ambassador for VR as a whole.
In the same 4 year time frame, Leap Motion’s technology has evolved from a curious gadget – a device searching for true purpose – to an advanced virtual reality input device, giving people the power to command their virtual world with no peripherals, just their hands.
Mike Harris has taken these two advancements in human interactivity and fused their essence with an online, multi-player component to build his his latest project, StrangersVR. The new application lets a creative pair (strangers or friends) join each other online inside a shared virtual space and, using just their hands, create virtual things together. The fascinating question this poses is: What would it be like to meet strangers online, sharing a virtually intimate space with someone you’ve never met, to draw and chat?
“Originally, I developed Strangers as a VR version of Omegle/Chatroulette, two random strangers are transported to a room, with voice and hand gestures,” says Harris, the developer of StrangersVR, “The desert setting seemed to convey a sense of isolation without being claustrophobic, and I was interested to see how this would influence the way people interacted with each other.” Harris continues, “At the same time, I developed a side project combining the Leap Motion drawing and scaling utilities and the response was amazing!”
Uses can initiate ‘drawing’, simply by ‘pinching’ in sight of a VR headset-mounted Leap Motion peripheral, then sweeping their hands to create marks in three dimensional space, whilst your virtual companion looks on or choose to join in.
The inspiration to combine the two projects wasn’t Harris’ however. “It was my girlfriend who swayed me to combine the two projects, she suggested that drawing was something humans did naturally so it would be an ideal mechanic to include given my original motivations behind the project,” says Harris, “She was right, after finally getting a stable build together it’s been kind of crazy how natural the interactions are.”
This isn’t the first time you’ve been able to draw online with other of course, whiteboard features for telepresence applications have been around almost since the dawn of the popular Internet, and there are now countless examples of social apps which use this as the core idea. But, as we’ve talked about many times at Road to VR in the past, virtual reality unlocks a fundamental component in online human interaction, the feeling of personal space and presence – of actually ‘being there’ with someone else. This is where StrangersVR‘s potential becomes an obvious and, perhaps slightly scary, evolution of existing social media platforms.
The application is, as yet, still at an early stage of development. “StrangersVR is currently in early alpha,” Harris tells me, “…and so far we’ve tested on the Oculus DK1, DK2, and CV1.”
Anyone who wants to give it a try can grab a version for download here. What’s more, Harris himself is eager to meet you, all of you online, inside his new virtual reality creation. If you’d like to do just that, tweet Mike to let him know you’re interested.