Virtual Reality Art: The Start Of A New Creative Movement

I remember a few years ago, an article showing up on my Facebook timeline that blew my mind. A 3D printing pen, where you could draw in mid-air and create three-dimensional sculptures like a painting. Just three or four years on, and that mind-blowing pen I enthusiastically shared to my network seems basic, lame, Betamax (if that). Since virtual reality arrived, there’s a new artistic tool on the scene that’s changing the way we look at digital art.

It’s important to start by emphasising that art in virtual reality is not going to take the place of other visual artforms. Just as photography never replaced painting, sculpture, and illustration, virtual reality merely offers a new tool with which to create. Innovation, technology, and art have always gone hand in hand, developing new styles, techniques, and processes.

Advances in digital software, such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and hardware such as the Wacom pad, have acted as tools which have transformed the way in which we produce and manipulate imagery.

Technology has given us new forms of art: video, light, and even hologram installations, for example, now feature regularly in galleries and exhibitions. We can shortly expect virtual galleries and exhibitions, but these will never take the place of the physical experience of visiting artworks in real life.

With that point made, let’s talk about Tilt Brush

Tilt Brush, for those unacquainted, turns the room around you into a canvas in virtual reality. You can paint in three-dimensional space, using a palette of unimaginable painting materials. Oils paint – yes, drawing pen – yes, but also stars, beams of neon light, snow, smoke, electricity, fire.

In the room-scale space inside your VR headset, you can walk around your art, approach it from all angles as a sculptor, or paint it as you would on a flat canvas, but in the air around you.

For artists, and the artists of the future, there is certainly ample opportunity to develop new forms of expression through Tilt Brush and similar software that is likely to emerge in coming years. However, the possibilities go beyond the discipline of fine art.

We have discussed on the blog before the ways in which virtual reality is being used for the creation and exhibition of imaginative forms of architecture.

Virtual Reality Art and The Advertising Industry

Virtual drawing could form the basis of new ways to create animations, to illustrate and tell stories, and it could also be an incredibly beneficial tool for industrial design, as well as for meetings, presentations, and lectures. There are, relating to these areas, obvious applications within both digital marketing and the advertising industry.

The creation of experiences is what art is all about, and – despite what many may think – the same applies to advertising and digital marketing. Both these involve the generation of engaging experiences at a highly creative level. In fact, these are industries in which some of our finest creative minds forge their careers, driven by the need to commoditise their creativity, and finding an outlet in which to do so with relative creative and financial freedom.

As virtual reality begins to reach maturity, it will become a central part of marketing and advertising strategy. Mass adoption cannot be far off; once the price of hardware comes down and more content becomes available, virtual reality will undoubtedly become a commonplace addition to many homes. As this occurs, advertisers and marketers will be faced with a set of pertinent questions to answer:

How will creatives create experiences in an immersive space, and how will these experiences be delivered? Can we generate emotional and commercial impact through these experiences in a similar or better way to how we did on a flat screen space?

Experiment and Collaboration

Art creation is not necessarily a solitary pursuit. It can be playful, a game to be played between two or more people, interacting, experiencing, experimenting with one another. Tilt Brush, for example, offers a multiplayer mode, opening the experience from a solitary creative endeavour to a social one. Equally, once a viewer tunes in via a headset themselves, they can experience the artwork all around them; there is room to toy with perception, participation, immersion. Artists can explore the interplay between real and imaginary through the division and merging of the virtual with the outside world.

Augmented Reality Art

This thought leads us on to the use of art in augmented, as opposed to virtual, reality. Tilt Brush is one thing, but consider the opportunity presented by augmented reality for, well, augmenting our reality with art. Transpose the concept behind Tilt Brush to the AR space, away from the dark void you inhabit within the Tilt Brush universe, into the world around us.

At the moment, the way most people access augmented reality is limited to the smartphone. There is, of course, the Microsoft Hololens, which is an amazing piece of kit. But it’s not financially accessible to most people right now. Probably the only mass market adoption of AR we have really seen to date comes from the Pokemon Go craze, and from Snapchat filters. There’s potential within the smartphone space for us to hold our screens up and see an invisible artwork come to life in front of us, and that idea is a pretty sweet novelty that will work equally well for both creative and marketing purposes.

However, there is a strong possibility that augmented reality will come to dominate our lives in a way that surpasses virtual reality. The notion of widespread AR glasses use, and even the whisper of augmented reality contact lenses is on the horizon. Although a slightly odd concept for us to grip right now, if AR does take off in this way, then we can look forward to this new virtual art movement being intrinsically tied to our everyday experience of the world. The possibilities of such a thing could be extremely impactful on the art world, with the capacity to augment physical art, not only of the visual kind, but music, dance, theatre, and even writing.

To Conclude

There is a range of ways in which it could occur, but there is little doubt that a substantial impact will be made one way or another. The extent to which virtual and augmented reality will change the art world is a matter for debate, but the emergence of a new art movement as a result of these technologies is a distinct possibility. As new software is released, and hardware comes down in price to reach the mass market, it is highly likely that new modes of expression will be realised. After all, the internet has transformed the way that we create and how we relate to imagery over the last two decades, and this new digital revolution is sure to do the same.