The Taj Mahal in Tilt Brush

Feb 3, 2021
Virtual Reality
3 min

Open Source Tilt Brush


Tilt-Brush was one of those early VR demos that was so intuitive that anyone could understand it within seconds. It's a 3D painting app. Done! 5 years after the 2016 release, Google decided to make the app open source. They weren't going to develop it anymore, and they realized the community would probably do more with it than they would.

Within a week, VR developers are already releasing modified versions of the classic. The first impulse was to make it multi-player so people could paint together. Someone had an interesting idea on Twitter to make a 3D version of "r/place" that enabled cycles of creation and destruction.

r/Place but in 3D?


Place was a social experiment on Reddit that was launched on April Fool's Day in 2017. It was a collaborative grid of 1 million pixels, that anyone could go into and edit. The catch is that after you changed a pixel, it was locked, but only for 5-20 minutes. Factions formed to either create or destroy. Some worked together to preserve the Mona Lisa, and others joined clans of chaos to flood the grid with colors and non-sense. The experiment ended after 3 days, and at the time of closing, there were 90,000 people in the grid patrolling the canvas.

So how could this work in 3D?

What rules could be set in place so that a few dozens people could erect a full-scale Taj Mahal, and then protect it from vandals?





The basic unit could be a 10' x 10' x 10' cell, about the size of a room-scale VR area. If an artist enters an empty cell, they have exclusive edit rights. As soon as they leave the cell, their work locks for a period of 10 minutes.



By stacking 27 cells into a cube, you get a cluster. This lets you create a 30' square foot print, with a structure as tall as 30'. It's roughly the size of a building. There are so many ways you could articulate a cluster. You could build walls around the perimeter and have 30' interior cube. Or you could create a 30' x 30' x 1' tall base, and then have free standing structures that are visible to adjacent clusters.



The issue with stacking cells or clusters infinitely is that navigation could become a nightmare. The idea is to create a "block" that arranges solids and voids in a way so that block are infinitely stackable. Think of a block as stack of 3 x 3 x 3 clusters, but there is void space cutting through the center of each axis. This allows for a reliable Manhattan-like grid that can cut through order and chaos. If you stack 27 blocks together (creating a large cube, or a "hyper-block"), you could fit the Taj Mahal in it. Three hyper-blocks in a row, stacked by three high, results in a New York City block with a max building height of 810'. Mass scale structures can exist, they will just have a grid of circulation skewers cutting through them.



If you want to build something at the scale of a cluster, you need to coordinate 27 cells. If you want to build something at the block level, you need to coordinate 540 cells. If you want to build the Taj Mahal (a hyper-block), you need to coordinate 14,580 cells. There needs to be a mechanism to transfer a master plan down to the cell level. At the center of clusters, or blocks, or hyper-blocks could be a "nucleus." A nucleus is a special objects with a 24-hour lock time. The idea is that an artist in control of a nucleus can view a whole cluster/block/hyper-block at the scale of a cell. They can make a gestural sketch, and it will then transfer those instructions into overlays that can be toggled on or off at the cell level. The idea is that a collaborating artist can show up to a cell, turn on the overlay, trace/interpret, and contribute to the larger vision.


Michael Dean


The Writing Studio


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