We catch up with Sightline creator Tomáš ‘Frooxius’ Mariančík whose work to create the Google Docs of VR world building with his latest project Neos, is progressing rapidly.

We’ve not heard much of Tomáš ‘Frooxius’ Mariančík, the developer behind the excellent Sightline series of VR experiences, in a little while. The last we heard he had embarked on an ambitious project, one that he claimed would allow teams of creators to collaborate seamlessly on shared VR worlds. After months of non-stop work, Mariančík has emerged ready to show off his progress on Neos, a collaborative ‘world engine’ that he hopes will provide the platform for building the metaverse, entirely within virtual reality. A Google Docs for VR world building if you will.

In order to demonstrate how far the project has come, Mariančík has produced an hour long video in which he and a colleague join each other from two separate rooms,  within the same virtual space.

They begin in what Mariančík calls Neos’ “scratch space”, the ‘construct’ area from which collaborators can start their creative journey. The duo then go on to fill the world, starting first with basic, hand drawn constructs rapidly progressing to more and more advanced and elaborate world building. By the time the pair have finished, they’ve created a realistic office environment, created from assets captured within photogrammetry, and have infused the worlds surfaces with countless copies of Sonic the Hedgehog videos. As you do.

One of the central ideas behind Neos is to offer collaborators intuitive, humanistic tools, inspired by the way we interact with the real world. For example, if you want to attach one virtually created object to another, you can apply virtual glue, a UI concept represented by a sphere in which you hold the objects, wait for the glue to ‘dry’ and once done, the two objects are stuck together. Or, if you want to apply textures to an object, simply grab from an array of materials (represented by spheres), pop it into your ‘material gun’ on one of your controllers and apply that material to as many as you like.

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The power of Neos is its network abstraction layer, which allows creatives to get on and build things even if they’re physically many miles apart, focusing on getting the job done. This abstraction layer manages to display a synchronised world using minimal network bandwidth as objects shared within the shared universe are synchronised in full just once with their states computed from those sync’ed relationships. This also means all users should see the same thing as everyone else in the space at all times.

Neos is still a work in progress, but its key architecture is clearly in place and its potential power should be immediately obvious. Can the developer succeed in defining and building a Google Docs from which friends and colleagues can create the metaverse? Time will tell.

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Based in the UK, Paul has been immersed in interactive entertainment for the best part of 27 years and has followed advances in gaming with a passionate fervour. His obsession with graphical fidelity over the years has had him branded a ‘graphics whore’ (which he views as the highest compliment) more than once and he holds a particular candle for the dream of the ultimate immersive gaming experience. Having followed and been disappointed by the original VR explosion of the 90s, he then founded RiftVR.com to follow the new and exciting prospect of the rebirth of VR in products like the Oculus Rift. Paul joined forces with Ben to help build the new Road to VR in preparation for what he sees as VR’s coming of age over the next few years.
  • Guy Sunderland

    Interesting, but visually confusing HCI and a lack of perceived depth.

  • Guy Sunderland

    …what I meant is ‘you’ know how to use Neos Tomáš, but it’s not obvious for the layman/new user. How would someone, who has never built anything in real-time digital 3D, be able to easily use Neos for the first time ?

    • Frooxius

      I don’t believe anything is ever truly “obvious” at first sight unless you’re already familiar with it, but there are certainly different learning curves. I talk about that a bit in the longer video, but in short, part of making it much simpler is basing the tools on ones from the real world people already know – like a glue or paint spray.

      • Guy Sunderland

        Technically Neos is excellent, for sure. As a set of tools for building VR , Neos may in future be used by anyone aged 7 to 97. Game, engine, or hybrid, doesn’t matter. It’s a matter of philosophy. An egalitarian interface so that everyone can use it within 30 mins to an hour, or an elitist interface that takes days or weeks to get familiar with and can only be used by those with a natural aptitude . Who do you want the user base to be ?
        Either way, it’s about a visual design solution (an art) to turn Neos into a ‘product’. Happy to help …

        • Frooxius

          I think it’s wrong to think that you have to choose between these two or that they are the only two options. I design Neos so it has more “layered” approach and you get the interplay between different classes of users.

          The top layer is designed to be super simple. Easy to use tools and devices. But you can, layer by later go deeper if you need (and are able to do so), modifying the tools perhaps, wiring new behaviors into them, creating new ones completely from scratch or programming entirely new behaviors and components or possibly modding internals of Neos itself.

          That way, people with high skill can build completely new objects, experiences and tools and give them to the people who are not able to build these, so they can use them in their own work (or just experience).

  • Peter McAtominey Strømberg

    I’ll reserve judgement, but the video is a mess! Good VR requires good designers. Letting everyone loose on it won’t solve that. But hey, I was wrong about the iPad :)

    • Frooxius

      The video isn’t meant to show what a polished experience would look like, but rather demonstrate the fundamental concepts and features of the underlying architecture. The project is still in heavy, but rapid development.

      It certainly doesn’t aim to “lever everyone loose”, but rather to give the good designers better tools, so they can build their ideas faster and better, while also giving less technically inclined people the ability to utilize power of VR for communicating, teaching or studying. Ideally it’ll help to bridge the two as well – it’ll allow good designers design better tools and worlds for people who are not so good at designing them, but are only going to be using them.

  • Ever heard of a little game called Second Life?

    • Daniel Gochez

      SL had very nice creation tools actually. It was held back by a lousy interface and navigation. And as much as we complain about not having solved the navigation issue in VR any of our options are way better than SL navigation.

    • Frooxius

      There are certainly many similar ideas and goals, but Neos has ultimately quite a different approach to things, both from the technical standpoint (the way synchronization is done and the world operate) and user experience (the way someone interacts with the world and tools). Neos is less “game-like” and more “engine-like” in its design.

  • Ian Moore-kilgannon

    The engine looks insanely powerful! Can’t wait to get my hands on it. Also any thoughts on supporting GLTF as a format for fast and efficient meshes?

  • Tomáš! That a MatterPort model of the Rothenberg working space and yourself!? This looks awesome man, maybe even more than Oculus Medium (who doesn’t have a multiplayer experience yet).