https://medium.com/@julianaloh/telepresence-inspiration-c2b5b4346848

On May 6 2019, I attended a workshop at Vancouver’s Launch Academy offered by Magic Leap. As a complete newbie, I didn’t know what Magic Leap was nor what to expect, but I arrived with the hope that it would change my perspective and open my mind to the possibilities of XR.

I’m using gestures UI to move objects in my headset.

 

I am exploring hand gestures (User Interface) in Magic Leap

While the Magic Leap headset and what it could do was impressive, what helped me to define my vision for myself was connecting with the amazing ML crew. As predicted, many of the workshop participants consisted of developers and as one of the only story design artists in attendance, I was on the lookout for ‘my’ tribe. I shared my art with XR artist Jacqueline Assar (who was known for her quirky and inventive ways of seeing things) and asked her if I could translate my work into AR. Jacqueline immediately and enthusiastically connected me with workshop leader and ‘sparkle’ designer Tricia Katz, then development guy and ‘boat builder’ Shane Engelman who in turn introduced me to XR team lead and ‘innovator’ Steve Lukas. When Steve saw my work, his eyes lit and he let me know that he was working on something on Spatiate that would ‘blow my mind’. I couldn’t wait.

Steve’s ‘Vision’ in Spatiate 

Steve is demonstrating his Spatiate App

At the end of the two-day workshop, Steve demonstrated his app on his iphone. We peered at his video and I was fascinated by the pink moving paint streak interspersed by a series of blobs. Steve explained that it was two paint brushes from two different people painting at the same time from different parts of the world. In essence, this ‘thing’ that we were seeing represented a kind of blueprint describing the ‘essential elements of spatial usability’. He called it ‘telepresence’. Adding to the complexity of his work, Steve explained to us in his own words that his invention was unique because it was: “one of the few apps that was and still is in present day able to link up an AR headset with a phone as a spectator in real-time”. What we were witnessing three years ago was indeed ‘the future’ and it was exciting!

 Three months after the workshop, I got my hands on a headset and embarked on my own journey using Google Tiltbrush. By 2021 I was a professional XR artist and designer. After Google’s sad announcement to end its support of Tiltbrush, another program called MultiBrush based on the open source format emerged and did precisely what Steve’s Spatiate app promised. It enabled multiple people to paint simultaneously in real time!

How I use MultiBrush in my Pipeline

By using MultiBrush and adding it to my pipeline, I no longer had to spend hours interpretting the client’s vision from abstract conversations or vague descriptions. Instead, I was able to draw and describe my work in the same shared space as my client within the oculus quest headset. My client was able to add thoughts and scribbles to my designs while offering instant feedback.

 

 

 

We could talk freely in VR space about color, shape, size, ideas and future concepts along with the ability to virtually show how the work could be experienced spatially. Within Multibrush, I was pleased to see the vision that I had first encountered in Steve’s app insert itself easily and elegantly into the VR illustrative space.

Collaboration in the VR/AR/MX Ecosphere

Today, the ability to collaborate in real time is somewhat ubiquitous and software such as Tvori and Unreal Engine are now being used to visualize and create VR prototypes. Collaboration is also enjoyed in social VR platforms like Facebook Horizon, RecRoom, Virbella, Sansar, Spatial, Meeting Room and EngageVR where users are able to connect and share/learn have fun together. Collaborations are also experienced in play and in the design of collective games and worlds with tools like Media Molecule’s Dreams, Roblox and Minecraft.

The use and implementation of collaborative toolsets is not a new concept but it has proven extremely effective in a VR/AR/MR ecosphere dependent on enhancing the ability to visualize spatially while decreasing associated costs and eco carbon footprints. As more use-cases are discovered and prices of hardware/software fall, it is likely that we may in the tradition of Web 2.0 see a growth in telepresence across various spatial networks.

When this happens on a wider scale, it might have a very powerful democratizing effect on indie artists, nimble developers and unique groups of friends who will finally be able to steer their own personal and collective capacity to dream and realize even bigger visions!

Epilogue: While the crew at ML have dispersed, it’s been a pleasure and privilege to watch each other grow and to share our discoveries. 😀