From the the original Sketchbook of 1963 to the latest version of Zbrush 4R7, digital content creation has undergone a radical transformation from rudimentary lines and pixels and into the highest levels of media art.
But never before has it ever undergone a more radical change than when it has been recently adapted for the world of Virtual Reality.
With the release of the new HTC VIVE headsets this year, many people (myself included) were excited and thrilled about the idea of being able to finally interact and play within a virtual space.
Though created for commercial purposes, three different virtual worlds in particular have caught my attention, not just for their entertainment, but also because their value as interesting interactive experiences.
Lightblade VR is a fan-made virtual reality training simulation with as (you’ve probably guessed from the video above) Lightsabres.
Yes it truly is a dream come true for all Star Wars fans.
With a controller in each hand, you have full control over a pair of plasma swords in a virtual training room as you block a series of phaser bolts fired from a small round robot that hovers in front of you. As you progress in the levels, the training bot begins to move in 360 degree motion around the room, forcing you to interact more in the space around you and utilize not just your arms but your whole body at various angles and positions.
The room itself is quite large and utilizes simple but nonetheless quality UV maps which respond well to the lighting cast out of a fake sky through a large window. There is also a training mode set in the desert at night where light is minimal.
However what really cements this virtual world is the sense of touch and feel. Though the glowing plasma sword is merely another element of the VR, the motion controller will vibrate in realistic fashion as a phaser bolt makes contact with your block.
In addition to touch, sound (generated from your speakers or plug in headphones) remains one of your more reliable senses in the game with the acoustics of the virtual space responding to your physical movement.
Though a game in its intentions, Lightblade VR Still makes for an interesting and a surprisingly physically demanding virtual reality experience.
The Night Cafe
Unlike LightBlade VR, The Night Cafe from Borrowed Light Studios is a true Virtual Reality experience.
In homage to the Artist Vincint Van Gogh, a virtual space in the form of a 1930’s Parisian cafe with two rooms and a corridor has been created in the artists style, utilizing elements from his own works as well as other artworks from the Impressionist movement of the late 19th Century.
Some of the artworks referenced include his famous self portrait as well as his sunflowers. And if one travels towards one of the windows with the controllers, and bends down to look up through them, they can see Van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889), moving and swirling above the city rooftops.
“It’s been an interesting process in using reference material from Van Gogh and other impressionist painters but also imagining what might have been there, just off the edges of the canvas.” – Borrowed Light Studios
This Virtual Reality, though composed of flat textures and colours over simple polygons, has created a unique and enchanting visual experience, one which both artists and normal viewers can appreciate as they are drawn into what is not so much a virtual room, but rather the artist [Van Gogh’s] personal head space.
Universe Sandbox ² is a physics-based space simulator in which the viewer can interact with the various celestial bodies of space.
With it you can spin, destroy, offset and change physics and then watch the simulated effects those decisions might theoretically have on the actual universe.
Universe Sandbox also simulates climate, material composition, temperature and even creates detailed collisions between both planets and stars and even black holes.
If there is one fault that could be found in this interactive experience it is perhap not as refined nor as detailed as the above two virtual realities.
Otherwise the physics engine is interesting to manipulate and handle, even if some of the results can be rather explosive.
Mazebert TD. (2016). Lightblade VR Trailer. [Online Video]. 29 May 2016. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVzrRI688WU. [Accessed: 26 October 2016].
Borrowed Light (2016). The Night Cafe. [Online Video]. 11 May 2016. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBOL5yakREA. [Accessed: 26 October 2016].
Borrowed Light Studios. 2016. The Night Cafe. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.borrowedlightvr.com/the-night-cafe/. [Accessed 26 October 2016].
Universe Sandbox. (2016). Universe Sandbox ² VR | Gameplay Trailer. [Online Video]. 5 April 2016. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txVJH1STuR4. [Accessed: 27 October 2016].
Universe Sandbox. 2016. Universe Sandbox. [ONLINE] Available at: http://universesandbox.com/. [Accessed 27 October 2016].
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van Veen, H.A., Distler, H.K., Braun, S.J. and Biilthoff, H.H., 1998. Navigating through a virtual city: Using virtual reality technology to study human action and perception. Future Generation Computer Systems, 14, pp.231-242.