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Virtual Vogueing: How Tilt Brush is Transforming the Design Process

Despite virtual reality feeling like it has been around forever, much like phones, it is still a fairly new field that is expanding at a blinding speed. Although it’s initial marketing catered to those interested in immersive gaming, its capability as an artistic tool is being explored by Google in their new application: Tilt Brush. Artists all around the world have been experimenting and pushing the limits of this new room-scale 3D painting virtual reality (VR) application since its release in 2016.

Artists from all backgrounds and disciplines are trying their hand at Tilt Brush– painters, sculptors, game developers, filmmakers, and fashion designers. Yes, fashion designers. Within the application users are able to choose different environments to paint in, such as the night sky or an open field; or they can upload a preset dress form.

This pushes drafting fashion sketches to a whole other level. There are several benefits to working through an idea on a 3D surface rather than on a 2D sketch pad. Designers are now able to see their creative vision directly on a form before moving to a muslin mock-up, which makes the transition from concept to finished product much smoother. With a wide assortment of brushes, including both traditional finishes and special effects, and a limitless amount of colors to choose from, Tilt Brush helps make the design process visually pragmatic and not to mention a whole lot of fun.

The Manor was able to experience Tilt Brush first-hand thanks to SCAD’s VR Department. The system consists of the headset and two wireless handheld remotes. We went in “blind” per se, having no previous experience in VR whatsoever. However, the application and system were extremely straightforward and easy to figure out. If you can tap into your skills used on the Nintendo Wii, then it is likely that you’ll have no problem transitioning into VR. It’s an art application that is made for artists.

Google’s Tilt Brush artists in residence Estella Tse and Cesar “3Donimus” Ortega gave SCAD students a demo on day 2 of this year’s SCAD Forward Fest. Although both artists came from a background of traditional mediums– Tse studying painting and Ortega studying sculpture– they dived headfirst into Tilt Brush, posting their creations and critiques on the user experience on social media. Google reached out and brought them on board as artists in residence to provide feedback and help push the evolution of the application.

Both Tse and Ortega attested to how much easier the application has become since its infancy. The problems they initially encountered while using Tilt Brush were taken into account by the developers and addressed in updates to the system. Because of this genuine collaboration between art and technology, the transition from traditional medium to 3D painting is smooth and inviting. Just about anyone can pick it up.

Technology is always constantly changing; so what tools will Tilt Brush offer in the coming years? Of course, it is all speculation for now, but the possibilities are endless. Teri Yarbrow, computer arts professor at SCAD, mused on how cool it would be to present an entire fashion show in virtual reality, making it so that users across the globe could connect to a network and experience a show, expanding a designer’s audience. It would also be amazing if the brushes available expanded to various fabrics that can be pinned to the digital dress form to simulate draping, pushing the boundaries of the concept process. Advancement is on the digital horizon and we’re beyond excited to see where this goes.

Written by Ka’Dia Dhatnubia
Cover image “Vintage Dior Cocktail Dress” by Anand Duncan on Poly.