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Google VR Teases Future of 3D Animation in VR

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These Daydream Labs experiments show how anyone could one day create animation in VR.

We have experienced creation tools like Google’s Tilt Brush on the HTC Vive, which lets you paint in a 3D space, letting you wave your hand controllers in the air to lay to down strokes of paint. It’s an amazing experience, creating in VR and building the world around you.

But what if you want to go from building in VR to actually creating and telling stories of your own — stories that you can then share with others to enjoy.

The Google VR Daydream Labs team is exploring and sharing the possibilities of animating 3D objects in VR and it looks like a blast.

Daydream Labs is a way for the Google VR team to explore different applications and interactions for virtual reality, pairing engineers with designers to rapidly prototype concepts. They have been consistently sharing their learnings with the VR community and this week, they are showing off 3D animation.

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When it comes to producing immersive 3D animation, it can be a difficult and costly endeavor to take on. Not only does it require complex software or motion capture setups, there can be quite a steep learning curve.

Now Daydream Labs is teasing us with some early experiments exploring ways to “reduce technical complexity and even add a greater sense of play when animating in VR,” said Rob Jagnow, a software engineer at Google VR.

In the video below, the team is showing an experiment on how you can bring characters to life in VR by picking up toys, moving them through space and time, and then replaying the scene. As you move objects around, a timeline is created that you can then scrub through, edit and play back.

Jagnow also shared some insights as he watched people play with the animation experiment Daydream Labs built.

The need for complex metaphors goes away in VR: What can be complicated in 2D can be made intuitive in 3D. Instead of animating with graph editors or icons representing location, people could simply reach out, grab a virtual toy, and carry it through the scene. These simple animations had a handmade charm that conveyed a surprising degree of emotion.

The learning curve drops to zero: People were already familiar with how to interact with real toys, so they jumped right in and got started telling their stories. They didn’t need a lengthy tutorial, and they were able to modify their animations and even add new characters without any additional help.

People react to virtual environments the same way they react to real ones: When people entered a playful VR environment, they understood it was safe space to play with the toys around them. They felt comfortable performing and speaking in funny voices. They took more risks knowing the virtual environment was designed for play.

In addition to showing how simple handmade VR animation can be in the video above, Jagnow also shared what creating more intricate animations could look like in VR, building a way for you to independently animate the joints of a single character. Much like interacting with a puppet, you can record your character’s movement as you separately animated the feet, hands and head.

While VR animation experiments like this won’t replace professional tools anytime soon, the idea of making VR storytelling more accessible to everyone in a natural and intuitive way is one of the most exciting promises of virtual reality. We can’t wait to see what virtual worlds creators will dream up of and the stories they will share.

About the Scout

Jonathan Nafarrete

Jonathan Nafarrete is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of VRScout.

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