Google nixes VR Tilt Brush project, makes code open source

Google ends development of Tilt Brush, makes code open-source.
Image: Google

Virtual reality (VR) has shown a lot of promise in recent years as both the hardware and software to support it improve. However, that doesn’t mean every company is ready to go all-in with the tech. Google is a prime example. The Big Tech firm has a number of VR projects in the works, but none of them are priorities at this point.

Google made that clear recently when it announced plans to end the development of Tilt Brush, a VR painting app it acquired in 2015. Fortunately, Tilt Brush won’t be going away entirely. Google is making the app’s code open-source, giving it a second chance at life with its community of users.

That opens the door for new developers to take a look beneath the hood and create spinoff versions of their own. Although it’s hard to compete with the financial backing and expertise of Google, a focused development team could turn Tilt Brush into something special.

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It will be interesting to see what happens with the app in the days to come.

Cutting Ties

Google originally acquired Tilt Brush back in 2015 around the time the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets launched. It garnered plenty of attention as consumers were all wondering what the future of VR would look like.

Since then, Tilt Brush has become a staple of Google’s VR offerings. It is compatible with projects like Google Cardboard and the company’s Daydream headsets as well as hardware from a variety of other manufacturers. Many users have enjoyed the app over the past five years.

Google supported it with several updates, including a multiplayer mode and an open-source toolkit. The latter gave users the ability to export their VR artwork and use it in animation projects with other software.

Community Project

Moving forward, Tilt Brush will still be available on most VR app stores. Users can download it for free and pick up their virtual paintbrush just like they could before Google halted its development efforts.

The company did note that it had to remove some of the app’s features due to licensing restrictions. However, it also provided instructions on how to rebuild those features.

Tilt Brush is now the latest in a line of abandoned VR projects that Google has left behind in recent years. The company ditched the aforementioned Daydream headset and Google Cardboard project. It also nixed Expeditions, a VR field trip software last year.

Although Google hasn’t moved away from VR entirely (it still supports VR features in YouTube and Google Earth) it appears things are moving in that direction. Even a company as big as Google can’t do everything. Perhaps it sees VR as too immature to dedicate enough resources to it.

Regardless, it’s nice that Tilt Brush will remain available to users. By putting the app in the hands of the community that uses it, Google gives Tilt Brush an appropriate send-off and a chance to live on in the years to come.

Those who want to check out the open-source version of Tilt Brush can do so on GitHub.


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