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Experience 3D modeling and scene evolution with "Blocks", Google's initiative for Vive and Rift

If the news has space for personal opinion, my experience would push me to give the Oculus rift an A+ for the wholesome time it once offered me but given that the VR research is still at its growing stage, the tech giants are always on the lookout for more. Take Google for example. The latest from their incubation is a graphical 3D platform where you can add Blocks to create your game scene and 'Daydream'. What is "Blocks"? It is simply an initiative where you can add a group of blocks to make your model but interestingly, on a 3D platform. In Google's words, if you are building 3D objects it should be applicable with your HTC Vive or Oculus Rift (glasses) on.

"Blocks" have been there for quite long for Google to recognize an interesting pattern. Since its launch, people have built countless models and put them online. Like Newton was struck by an apple, Google heard it from the data and came up with an idea to create an entire interactive scene. The team made it possible and unleashed the 'Blocks' version of "Escape the Room" game. Amazing enough, the complete scene is made up of blocks starting from a flashlight, desk, bookcase, Keypad and even the room itself is included in the list. If you are a 90's kid, you might be aware of the ghostly experience from this sub-genre games.

Cake_Blocks
Made in Blocks - 3D model in VR platform

As Bruno Oliveira, Software Engineer at Google explains, the system had to be made for all so "no coding experience" was the tagline they went with to define the scene with interactivity. They created a simple system of triggers and actions which allows one to predict the outcome of what happens next, inclined to the laws of physics and logic. For example, when a battery object hits the flashlight object the light object comes out of the flashlight object. Simple enough for users, the team inserted similar tricks into the game scene such as opening a locked chest with a key, placing a book in a sliding bookcase and figuring out a combination for a digital lock.

If you see the block-based models, uniquely, then you would probably ask yourself if they are inspired by low-poly design. And the truth is they are. In the official publication, Oliveira explains making of an interactive scene was fun as they the low-poly based designs made by different people had to be a good fit altogether and as it seems, that happened with success.

Google_scene_Blocks
Blocks game scene

Part of realizations, he also mentioned that the team understood that adding interactivity to a scene is extremely crucial. Most of the interactions were basically dependent on collisions and actions like showing or hiding or animating specific objects. The next step was rendering, an easier part, where block objects worked well with materials. Using the standard diffuse shaders for the opaque surfaces and a translucent one for the glass surfaces completed their job of rendering with an ambient light and spotlight.

The moving part aka animation depended initially on a basic arrangement where the team used pre-recorded motions of certain objects and showed them as a sequence of transformations including position, rotation, scale. Animating characters, however, needed a little more technicality and manual calibration. Seemingly engaging this system offers scope in the area of AR an VR. "Blocks" is currently available for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

Source: Google

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