For the past two decades, while computing power has increased exponentially resulting in fantastic gains in 3D rendering, our input options have remained rather stagnant. I remember twenty years ago sitting with dual computer monitors: one showed four separate grid views for my models, while the second monitor displayed the current render. It was doable, but tedious, and flat screens have never been the best for perceiving three dimensional objects. Up until recently, not much had changed in those twenty years. But finally, the creation-side of 3D Modeling is seeing a revolution.
Here comes Gravity Sketch.
Although a relative new-kid on the street compared to juggernauts like Maya and 3D Studio Max, Gravity Sketch has been making waves with a few game-changing alterations to the normal workflow method. For starters, Gravity Sketch is pioneering virtual reality creation. As opposed to those two monitors I discussed earlier, Gravity Sketch allows users to put on a virtual reality headset, track their hands, and literally create 3D models with their hands in real space like a traditional sculptor. While the learning curve is substantial, once an artist masters the program, they feel more like a musical conductor than a CGI nerd. Suddenly you go from staring at a computer screen to being Michelangelo painting on the Sistine Chapel.
Best of all for adoption of this new art generation technique, Gravity Sketch is free for most users. The app is available at no cost for Oculus Quest users, while professionals wanting greater tools and services can pay a very reasonable licensing fee. But don’t think this is one of those free demo business models for the average consumer — rather, you can create nearly any 3D model you can imagine using the free individual license. For those of you in the industry, we’re talking about reducing and increasing polygon counts, connecting vertices, extruding lines, and everything you’d want in a thousand dollar program… except it’s working in a virtual reality environment for free. It’s rather crazy.
Whether or not Gravity Sketch becomes a major player in CGI artist programs, it’s perhaps more important that the they’ve moved the paradigm. Once you’ve switched to creating models in virtual reality, it’s jarring to try returning to those flat screens, a mouse, and a keyboard. That’s not to say that those flat screens are immediately antiquated. No, in fact there are actually flat screens inside the virtual reality space for some uses! And Gravity Sketch isn’t perfect either; the ability to enter commands digitally so that placements and distances are exact is sorely missing. But again, this is a start, and it’s a heck of a start that shows where the industry must go in the future.
For the average reader, Gravity Sketch is a free app on Oculus Quest 2 that you can paint in 3D with, a la Tilt Brush. But for any of you artists out there, prepare to enter your Fung Shui Studio you never knew you were missing until you enter for the first time. It’s hard to discount the idea of artists now having immense access to quickly creating new models in a virtual reality space on a $400 headset, then moving those models to a 3D printer in their home with blazing speed. Is the Age of Abundance here already? I don’t know, but I may just have to print a new piece of art for my home that I created in virtual reality… and if you like it, maybe we can swap files.
And in that case, is virtual reality really virtual anymore?
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