Aug 21, 2023
Low polygon modelling in Virtual Reality
VRTX (pronounced “Vertex”) - in my defence: when I came up with it, it was still a novel and original idea to use word-plays with “VR” in the product name… 😉
Backstory: By 2016 no one had released a 3D modelling app for VR. I was working on VR projects and felt it was ridiculous that I had to build VR environments on a 2D screen. I had been so sure that all the big 3D software companies would jump at VR, but I was wrong. So I built it myself.
Here’s the very first prototype after a few evenings of messing around in Jan 2016:
I realised that what it needed most was guides, so I added some.
Added more snapping options (snap to plane, rotation lock, etc., etc.), created a circle-menu for the Vive Controller’s touchpad, made lights movable
Made a better wireframe look and had a fantastic idea (still very proud of this!): As you move away from the model the wireframe fades out. You work on your model, then you take a step back and look at it in a different way.
More work on snapping - by now I had a pretty damn good system. I added snap to grid where the grid would show up around your controller.
I added a second environment and put scene settings on the edge of your play space.
At this time I was really having a lot of fun. I had rewritten 2-hand-scaling and it felt amazing. I added a way to load in reference images and 2D camera views, so you could set up a camera, align it with an axis, set it from perspective to orthographic and you could get a flat view to position wherever you wanted. (Or just use the camera to take screenshots)
But at this point it also became clear that the circle menu - however much I liked its looks - was becoming too cumbersome to use. So I made a new menu system that could be positioned in space and then you’d just push whatever button you’d need.
I also added a ton of new functionality, like flipping polygons, flattening polygons, primitives, ability to draw polygons, auto-close polygons, etc. I made the entire modelling system much more robust, so you could now extrude a face from the side of another extrusion that you were still doing with the other hand, etc.
Over the course of 2016 VRTX made quite a splash (at least for a VR tool in 2016 😉) and it got me into contact with a lot of interesting people. I had a lot of good discussions as well as some surreal experiences (Has anyone from Autodesk ever called you out of the blue to ask about what you’re up to?)
I mapped out what it would take to turn this into an actual product and realised that I’d probably need more hours in the day to do this by myself. But I ran into another very talented guy who had toyed with some VR modelling ideas and we eventually decided to join forces. But as we were beginning to merge our efforts, he got snapped up by Microsoft, so that was that.
And I got hired by Magic Leap shortly afterwards and move to the other side of the earth…