As the launch of Oculus Touch nears, the company is lifting embargos on a number of Touch titles, including the hotly anticipated Oculus Medium.

Oculus Medium is a digital sculpting tool which leverages Touch’s high quality motion tracking to allow free-form creation that focuses on manipulation of mass, rather than the production of brush strokes (like we find with titles like Tilt Brush and Quill). Medium is very much a tool rather than a game, but its ease of use means even the non-artistic can toy around with it, and maybe discover they’re a little more creative than once thought.

Medium will be available for free at the launch of Touch on December 6th, and to the best of our knowledge it will not work without the controllers.

Functionality

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Art by Goro Fujita

Medium is all about adding, subtracting, and manipulating digital mass, much like a clay sculptor. Clay is known as a welcoming medium even for non-artists, hence the popularity of Play-Doh amongst youngsters. But Medium strives to be a tool for serious artists and has a range of advanced functions which, when used in conjunction, make the program surprisingly powerful.

Tools

While Photoshop has ‘brushes’, Medium’s basic element is ‘tools’, which allow you to add or manipulate digital mass in the scene with the pull of the Touch controller’s trigger and a swipe of your arm. Presently, there’s eight tools available:

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Clay, the default tool, allows you to add and carve clay in your scene, using brushes of various sizes and shapes.

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Paint allows you to spray paint or brush color onto your clay.

Swirl whirls your clay like a whisk, in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction.

Cut slices your sculpt into pieces you can move around and merge back together.

Inflate lets you inject or extract clay from your sculpt, causing it to expand or contract around your hand.

Flatten helps you trim areas of your sculpt to get fat planes and sharp creases.

Smudge smears the clay in the direction you move your hand, like smudging clay with your thumb.

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Smooth polishes your object, softening sharp points and filling in creases

With the ‘Clay’ tool, you can hold down your trigger to draw out an area of mass continuously. Unlike Tilt Brush, these strokes are real volumetric geometry that you can cut, deform, and continue to mold.

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The pedestal of this impressive piece was likely created in part with the Swirl tool. | Art by Goro Fujita

Once you have mass in the scene, you can use the other tools to shape it in various ways. You’ll find the tool menu on your main-hand, and find that each works very differently from the basic Clay tool. Swirl will twist the clay like an electric mixer. Smooth will soften and flatten rough places on the clay. Paint will let you spray paint the clay different colors. And still there’s more, each of which has a series of options that can be toggled on your off-hand; such as subtracting mass instead of adding it, locking the placement of new clay to a single plane, or increasing the size of the clay being added. (By the way, there’s a simple menu to switch handedness in Medium).

Stamps

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Tools are great for organic shapes, but you’ll want to take advantage of Stamps to quickly achieve a sharper ‘manufactured’ look. | Art by Goro Fujita

While the basic Clay tool draws out a sphere of mass, Stamps allows you to easily paste predefined shapes like numbers, letters, and structural pieces (columns, curves, buttons, plates, etc.). There’s a huge selection of stamps to choose from, and each stamp is virtual clay that’s moldable just like everything else. Stamps can really speed up the creative process by giving you tons of pre-made shapes to incorporate into your work instead of needing to draw and shape each one yourself. You can create and save your own stamps too (which could be a combination of pre-made stamps). For instance I could make a neat signature out of my name and then save it as a stamp to easily paste the design into any of my scenes to sign my work.

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You can also use stamps as shapes for continuous strokes. This works much like being able to make your own brush tips in Photoshop, which opens up a range of powerful functions. For instance, I could choose an ‘O’ shape stamp and hold my trigger down to draw out a continuous line, which would give me a hollow tube-like structure instead of just a letter shape.

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Stamps are great for repeating patterns. Instead of making 100 individual suction cups on this octopus, just design one and then stamp out the rest in varying sizes. | Art by John Paul Sommer

Stamps can be as complex as entire scenes if you want and they’re also a great tool for quickly populating a scene with repeating details (like windows on a building).

If you have a very complex stamp consisting of lots of intricate geometry and try to draw it continuously through the air as a stroke, Medium will gracefully slow down the rendering of the mass (if needed) while maintaining tracking on your head and hands, and will continuously work until it catches up to where you left the end of the stroke. Within reason this slowdown didn’t seem to be a regular issue when sculpting, except when trying to use a complex stamp as a stroke instead of a single placement.

Now, that’s all well and good and makes for a fun bit of playing around with the ability to create and manipulate digital clay in real-time, but if you aren’t an artist you may find yourself wanting some instruction. Luckily, the application has a number of built-in immersive tutorials which walk you through the basics and more advanced parts of Medium. During each tutorial you’ll find an avatar standing next to you in the actual workspace; you’ll be able to see a representation of their head (wearing a Rift) and hands (holding controllers), and hear their voice as they guide you through the ins and outs of Medium with step by step guidance. This is a great way to learn the program, and also a great way to demonstrate and share work, as you have access to capture the same sort of action+voice recording to be played back and shared with others. That means you can record yourself showing off a new technique, or narrate your sculpt as you create it, allowing someone to hear your thoughts as they play back the sculpt after the fact. I’m sure people will find creative uses for this too, perhaps to tell a story based on their work as it unfolds.

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Art by Steve Teeple

All of these capabilities start to add up to a fairly powerful toolset, but it’s the ability to use layers in Medium which really opens the door to advanced creations. Layers let you divvy up your work into discrete groups that can be adjusted independently from one another, but still show up in the same scene (layers are one of the most powerful functions of photo manipulation and vector design software). So I could draw the eyes of a smiley face on one layer, and then the mouth on another layer. I would see an entire smiley face together, but then I can go back and manipulate the layers separately; I can temporarily disable a layer from being visible, or I can change the position and scale at any time. For instance, I might want to flip my smiley’s mouth upside down and make it larger so that it turns into a big sad-face instead. You can also toggle the type of material on a per-layer basis, letting you switch between the default matte, a shiny metallic, and a glowing light.

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When you’re all done crafting a sculpt, there’s an option to export your creation in a format which Oculus says can be used for 3D printing, or import into other 3D modeling tools or game engines. Oculus also says that the Medium website will be a hub for hosting and sharing content like sculpts, stamps, and screenshots and for sharing to places like Facebook, though we haven’t seen this functionality in action yet.

oculus-medium-5As someone who isn’t much of a visual artist, it’s hard for me to say for certain how great Medium is or isn’t for artists. However, as someone who is something of a designer (who regularly uses Photoshop and Illustrator), I can definitely appreciate the tools that Medium equips users with, and how those tools interact together to create surprisingly advanced capabilities. Even moreso, the tools present thus far are easy to use while still being powerful; maintaining ease of use will be key going forward as Medium (hopefully) continues to enhance its toolbox.

Medium is an incredibly easy way to make real 3D content in VR, even for people who have never used any 3D modeling tools. Being able to ‘sketch’ in 3D to convey ideas is going to be awesomely helpful in the right contexts; I could easily see concept artists and level designers flocking to the tool to rough out concepts and collaborate on design.

For the artist’s perspective we can look to what serious artists have been able to achieve with the tool, which is nothing short of impressive.

Immersion

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.

While at first you’ll probably make random doodles, you might find the urge to spend time making something more detailed. To do so you’ll find that the ability to manipulate your scene is key. Using Touch’s hand-trigger, you can easily reach out and rotate your scene as well as scale it to work on macro and micro details quickly and easily. It’s an easy way to get the right angle and add just the right detail before flipping the scene upright again to its intended viewing position.

While you’re working, a virtual speaker will pump out any audio that’s playing on your desktop. This is great if you like to jam out while you get your creative juices flowing. There’s a special mode you can enter in Medium to adjust the position of the virtual speaker, which is a neat touch because it feels like the sound is actually coming from wherever you put the speaker rather than just having the sound source seem like it’s attached to your head. This makes Medium feel more like a real workspace rather than an abstract canvas.

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Medium’s interface feels highly utilitarian, mostly utilizing a look-and-point approach to clicking buttons and selecting tools, but it’s clear that its creators were focusing on usability over polish at this stage. Most menus appear close to you and are easily interactable with a laser cursor on your main-hand, and will disappear automatically when you look away from them, letting you quickly get back to your work without repeatedly closing menus. This takes a while to get used to, since few other VR applications take this approach, but it works well to keep you creating as efficiently as possible.

Medium could do for a visual overhaul across the board to make tools and menus look visually richer, but it’s a good idea that the developers chose to get the base functionality right in the first place before spending too much time on polish. Still, we hope Medium will continue to evolve here into something that looks as good as it functions.

Needless to say, we’re already dreading the lack of multiplayer functionality in Medium. Social makes everything better in VR, especially when it comes to being able to collaboratively create and feed off of each other’s ideas in real-time. We know for a fact that a multiplayer function in Medium is awesome because Oculus had demo’d it many months ago in an earlier build of the application. We hope that demo may have laid the groundwork for a future multiplayer update to Medium, but for now it seems Oculus wasn’t keen on making it part of the initial release, which is a shame.

Comfort

Medium carefully adheres to VR best practices, and I can’t think of one instance while using the program that I felt a sense of motion sickness. In Medium you’ll always have a grid-like floor at your feet which keeps you visually grounded. If you were to paint an entire scene around you that obscured the floor entirely, and then grabbed the scene and spun it around you, I suppose you could probably make yourself a little dizzy, but it would be challenging to do unless on purpose.

The only critique here for Medium is the interface which feels like it’s branched off a bit on its own evolutionary track compared to other (more game-centric) Touch applications. That makes sense because Medium is designed to be usable for long stretches of time and has a unique use, but it takes some getting used to before you understand the slightly different control paradigm.

One specific quibble (which applies to many VR apps), is that Medium uses a laser-pointer menu approach which asks you to pull the trigger as a selection action. Personally I feel that pressing a button, rather than pulling a trigger, is the better action to indicate a selection, because pulling a trigger requires more movement and often causes the rest of your hand to move slightly (which can easily throw off your laser pointer, especially at longer distances from the menu). Instead, a button press achieves the same input with much less movement of your finger (and residual movement of the controller), keeping the laser-pointer more accurate. There’s a reason our mice use a nice tight ‘click’ instead of a lengthy analog trigger pull, after all.

This isn’t a huge deal in Medium because the menus are kept pretty close to you and their buttons and toggles are fairly large and clickable, but I think a change from trigger selection to button selection could still improve things (and maybe make the application slightly more intuitive).


Disclosure: Oculus provided Road to VR with Touch controllers for review.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall
8.5

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  • DiGiCT Ltd

    This gives me a bad feeling, it’s overhyped.
    Same thing i had many years ago buying apps like “Music Composer” saying you could create your own music, however it was more like stitching sample loops together, and those samples where even copyrighted.
    This thing is the same story redone for sculpting 20 years later, dont fall for the trap, its is not really near as good as real sculpting software, you get it for free thats the only thing thats good about it so you can play a little.
    Giving it an 8.5, i would rather not as I am pretty sure its not that good at all for professional use.
    Designers using mudbox or zbrush understand what i am talking about.

    Its a simplified sculp tool, just for play around with, not intended for professional usage.

    • Jim Cherry

      the person doing the article is not a professional sculptor doing a review for a product marketed at professionals. Anyone on here reading this review should take it in the context of a piece of vr software non gaming related.

      • DiGiCT Ltd

        Yes, its not a game, but it let you “sculp” something, just for fun to play with.
        Better result can be archived by using some good stamps and meshes like the video shows for the bottom part, its not realy sculpt but rather assebled.
        It is for free and that makes it in a way fun for people whom never did a sculp on a computer.

    • Foreign Devil

      I word as pro 3D artist and I’m really excited to use this. Ultimately if the likes of Zbrush or 3D-Coat could adapt their robust packages to VR that would be incredible. . but until they do we have this and it is a great start!

      • Couldn’t agree more. It is obvious that DiGiCT Ltd is either really close-minded, not at the top of their game, or both.
        If you can sculpt reasonably well and export to another package, this app has some great potential. It doesn’t take a genius to see that. :)

      • DiGiCT Ltd

        It is a start for sure, but also very limited, those screenshot with this article are far away from what it can do, it is misleading as they all be finalized in higher end design software and not the result of sculpting be done in this app.
        Cant even say it would be working easier too as getting into the HMD and out of it is annoying, importing and exporting all the time between applications is another problem.
        A big thing not mentioned here is the trigger pressure for adjusting the thickness of sculting, which is possible with the Vive using the index finger button in drawing programms, although this goes not as smooth as working with wacom equipment IMO.
        Rought sculpting will work fine, but getting more detail requires you to do a lot on external software to get the result.
        Don’t get me wrong, I love VR and I also love AR, but somethings are just not going to work better in those tech.
        It is the same as writing an article on a pad with only a touchscreen, it can do, but its not going to save the time or being more comfortable at all.
        If you work as a 3d artist you nkow several screens and 4k res makes it very comfortable to add details to designs.

        • Tim_in_Indiana

          AFAIK, It’s not designed to “save time” or be a pro-level tool. It’s designed to bring beginners into the world of 3D modelling in VR.

    • Says the man who has never tried it? Looking at Fujita’s sculpts, and knowing that there is a layers system, plus the ability to export to .obj tells me that this can be used for professional work, as well as amateur.
      Nothing stopping a guy from roughing out a sculpt, exporting as .obj, importing into Maya or another package for re-topo and touch-ups, and then going over to something like UE4.
      You sound really close minded with that comment.
      Where do you get the idea this is nothing but ‘stitching’ things together? The fact that there is a library of pre-built stamps? Don’t be so stupid, even Maya and Photoshop both have similar functions (paint effects and brushes respectively).
      You sound like one of those high-and-mighty douchbags we get in the industry, that thinks that just because they do graphical work they are somehow ‘elite’ or ‘special’.

      Obviously this won’t have the same functionality as, let’s say Zbrush, and you likely won’t see the same subdiv levels of Mudbox or another pro-sculpting platform, but you shouldn’t have to use your brain too much to see that even simple tools like this can be quite enabling.

      Come on dude, if you’re so smart, why are you sounding like such a dumbass?

      • DiGiCT Ltd

        Let me explain it in your language :
        You are the one being closed minded here DUMBASS.
        You know why?.. your history on replies is always praising oculus DUMBASS

        That makes you a fixed minded DUMBASS.

        All your replies are in perfect line with being a DUMBASS.

        You being a troll and douchbag, does not mean others are like you .. DUMBASS

        Prove me I am wrong and show me what you actually can make or even do in your life… even when it is hard to do for a DUMBASS i am looking forward to see what you as a DUMBASS can do.

        I would be surprised a DUMBASS as you could really do something in life rather than insulting people all the time.

        You better spend your time in school kid, as you for sure missed some education on manners DUMBASS

        Hopefully this DUMBASS language is more clear to you how serious i can take your talks ….. DUMBASS

        • Aaron Hillaker

          Are you a three year old?

          • Bryan Ischo

            I cannot even fathom what would cause someone like DiGiCT to post about software that he hadn’t even even used, thinking that anyone would actually care to read his uninformed and useless speculation, and then get pissed off when people called him on it.

            Time to go look into the disqus settings to see if it’s possible to block a poster because if so, this fool is definitely getting blocked.

            EDIT: Yeah blocking turns out to be really easy. Just click on the user name from their post, click the ‘dot dot dot’ menu, and block user. So satisfying!

          • DiGiCT Ltd

            There is a difference in having a discussion and insulting people on personal level.
            My post is directed to Alex Smith, if you would just look at his history you would know why, oculus fanboy and only insulting people all the time.

            The app is for free so go ahead and be happy with it, I for sure dont and thats my opinion.

            I just explain why this cant work great in VR, and there are many more apps which simply dont work out in VR.
            If you dont like my opinion or even want to block me , thats your opinion, but not my problem.

            Giving people bad names is called insulting, they are not opinions.
            Unfortunately seems these kind of kids are a lot on internet nowadays.

          • You’re an idiot. lol.

          • DiGiCT Ltd

            Your dad should get you off the net toll kid lol.

          • Take a look at my original comment to you, take a real *good* look. Wow, that sure pissed you off hey?
            Now take a look at *your* comment (“DUMBASS”), and tell me which one looks like it came from an intelligent and reasonably reasonable human being.

            You should really try not to be such a baby when someone challenges your intellect.

            Also, I would bet I have about 30 years on you son, lmao.

          • DiGiCT Ltd

            If you are sure about having 30 years more you would be almost 80 years old my son or is it grandpa rofl.
            I cant say i seen any post in the past i could mark intelligent sorry to say.

          • DiGiCT Ltd

            Are you?

        • Daemon Hunt

          That’s a really bad response. Sir, you need to chill out.

        • DM

          wow you really are a retard…

    • Bryan Ischo

      So you’ve used it? Do you have some relevant and specific criticisms?

  • Guygasm

    Great review. I’d almost prefer using the capacitive capability of the trigger for menu selection even more than a button. Only the lightest tap is needed and could even be configurable. If it’s only used when a menu is brought up on your secondary hand, false positives might not be an issue.

  • Firestorm185

    Can everyone say that Goro Fujita is an amazing artist? Wow, that’s some amazing stuff.

  • PrymeFactor

    Reading the review text, I expected a higher score than 8.5.
    The few cons seem like minor quibbles to me.

    • benz145

      No multiplayer (especially when we had seen it before) feels like a big miss, so does the interface which feels and looks a little bit beta. And while its powerful, there’s definitely room to expand the toolbox. So a great starting point for now, but not a perfect 10 ; ).

  • CURTROCK

    Very thorough review. I was hyped to try this, even b4 the reviews. Creating in VR will be at least part of the elusive “killer app” that the industry keeps talking about. Medium & Quill coupled with the release of the Touch controls is going to unleash the full scope & potential of Rift’s capabilities. Ironically, the VIVE fanboys were correct in saying that the VR experience isn’t complete without tracked controllers. I think after the release of Touch and the slew of games & apps that utilize it, will be the time for healthy comparisons & critiques of the 2 systems. We are fortunate to have choices.

    • Bryan Ischo

      Jesus christ, do you HAVE to use the word “fanboys”? Do you HAVE to try to bring the level of discussion down like that? Can you really not help yourself?

  • Daniel Gochez

    We need a review from a professional Zbrush/3dcoat/mudbox artist.

    • Aaron Hillaker

      I can’t review it entirely as I’ve only used it for about 30 minutes thus far, but I absolutely freakin’ love it.

  • mbze430

    does it allow you to 3D Print?

  • David Wilhelm

    Well it will be interesting to see how this evolves from the ground up compared to trying to get existing software to work in VR effectively. Sculpting or modeling, lighting, shading, texturing.. these all look good, possibly more intuitive than anything else currently available. What isn’t shown at this stage, but would be a likely extension of the environment, would be additional tools for animation and interaction – such as skeletons, kinematics, animation tools like pivot points, keyframes and interpolation, whether the mesh is stitched with stamps etc., and networked collaborative environments.

    I think 3dsmax and Maya will really have to step up the game to show anything that is comparing to in VR world building in Unity, Unreal, and now Medium. But there is a huge amount of inertia behind the workflows of those existing software & hardware infrastructure in the professional world, say Lucasflim or Pixar. If Medium embraces code extensibility like Maya does that will just further the ability for Medium to eventually make inroads into the pro dev world, and help bring incredible story telling tools to people.

    Anyone have current, first hand experience of in VR use of Maya?

  • John G

    Dumb question; will the Touch work with the Vive headset?

    • Joel C

      No it has to wirelessly connect to the Rift headset first for it to work.

  • Joel C

    I had been fighting myself over which VR rig to get for the whole year now, and Medium w Quill finally tipped the scales for me so far to the Rift I finally couldn’t hold out any longer and ordered a Rift w Touch last night. Up till then I was about to get the vive many times but as an artist. This is just too good to pass up or even wait to come out on other devices. These two apps are amazing and I don’t even care what other games are out yet next to these.