Early VR Experiments

Built for Google Cardboard, Vive Pre, and other early HMDs.

Everyone starts somewhere. Lots of folks I admire in the animation industry started as illustrators, production assistants, or software engineers. My path started with VR, and these are the experiments that launched me into animation and technology.

Sandbox VR

Fall 2015 - Summer 2016 | Built for the Vive Pre

A couple months after starting college, I reached out to a research lab on campus that was focused on AR/VR projects. I met Ashok Kuruvilla through the lab, and he introduced me to Unity, virtual production, and room-scale headsets. Together, we built Sandbox VR: a world-building tool that lets anyone build scenes directly in virtual reality.

Gaze to Color

Summer 2016 | Built for Google Cardboard

The following summer, I taught myself more about Unity so I could bring my own ideas to life. Working with phenomenal engineers is always a treat, but I knew I needed to build a strong technical foundation if I wanted to be taken seriously. Inspired by Ashok, Max Weisel, and Robbie Tilton, I approached VR development as an artist— I wanted to build things that people could play with.

First, I built a quick prototype that lets people select what happens to a target object when they gaze at / click on it. I was excited about VR-native tools, and wanted to teach myself the ropes.

Bubble Menu

Summer 2016 | Built for Google Cardboard

Next, I wanted to design an in-VR menu that clearly presents the hierarchy of options while staying compact. I wanted to use z-space in a creative way, and prototyped a menu system that surfaces menu options inside “bubbles.”

Virtual Pizzeria

Summer 2016 | Built for Google Cardboard

Towards the end of the summer, I had a funny idea. What would ordering pizza in VR look like? What if you could see how large your large pizza was? Or how thick your thick crust was? So, I decided to build a virtual pizzeria. I even tried selling it to Pizza Hut’s director of digital partnerships.

Provenance

Spring 2017 | Built for the HTC Vive / Oculus Rift

The following spring, immigration policy was all over the news. I wanted to build something that displays U.S. immigration data in a way that gracefully overwhelms the viewer. That thinking led to Provenance, my first solo room-scale VR project.

Time Warper

Spring 2017 | Built for the HTC Vive / Oculus Rift

Around the same time, I started thinking more about animation in VR. I loved the work that Tvori and Quill were doing, and wanted to start by exploring unique ways to manipulate time in VR. Time Warper was a small experiment that allowed me to change a scene’s appearance by turning the hands on a virtual clock.

Multipose

Fall 2017 - Spring 2018 | Built for the Oculus Rift

The following fall, I decided to double down on building a VR animation tool. I figured that pose-to-pose animation would be much easier in VR, and I started building early prototypes that would eventually become Ollie.

I started with basic keyframing, three animatable attributes, and gizmos made for VR.

To stress-test the tool, I tried demonstrating ten principles of animation.

Finally, I started exploring what a timeline-free animation interface would look like in VR.

This iteration of Multipose launched my friends and I into a set of year-long projects: Ollie and Trailblazer.

Ollie & Trailblazer

Fall 2018 - Fall 2019 | Built for the HTC Vive / Windows MR / Oculus Rift

About a year later, we had a VR animation tool that we were proud of…

And a short film made with it.

After years of working on seemingly disconnected projects, it’s fun to connect the dots looking back. Can’t wait to share some new projects soon— here’s to more exciting work ahead.


Thanks for reading. If you have any feedback or suggestions for me, DM me on Twitter or via sagarramesh.com.

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