Google 'Blocks' 3D Modeling Tool For Rift And Vive Designed For Ease Of Use, Speed

Google released a new 3D modeling tool called Blocks for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Much like Tilt Brush, the company's VR art app, Blocks is supposed to make it easier to create VR and AR experiences. But instead of Tilt Brush's 3D "painting," Blocks is all about building 3D objects.

Blocks is supposed to solve a fundamental problem with creating XR experiences: designing 3D objects on 2D monitors. Many designers and developers are adept at creating pseudo-3D objects--just look at pretty much any modern video game for proof--but making things people will actually experience in all three dimensions is another thing entirely. Google's hope is that Blocks will help by letting you build 3D objects in VR.

The company said in a blog post that Blocks is "designed to feel more like playing with children’s blocks than working with traditional 3D modeling software." You essentially use simple shapes, colors, and tools to design anything your heart desires. Google shared a few examples in its announcement, and many of them have a charming low-poly aesthetic that suits the "children's blocks" concept at the center of the app.

In an interview with Oculus, Google Group Product Manager Jason Toff explained Blocks' appeal to artists and novices alike:

The main benefit of Blocks for an experienced artist is speed—the ability to get an idea from your head into volumetric (virtual) reality quickly. For complete novices, we’re opening the door for them to make 3D models much more easily and naturally, by creating in 3D space instead of on 2D surfaces.

Blocks, like Tilt Brush, includes a variety of export options. You can save your creations as objects that can be used in XR experiences--which is the whole point of the tool--but you can also share it online or in an animated GIF. Both tools have to straddle the line between letting people create things for XR and recognizing that most people are still using 2D displays instead of strapping HMDs like the Rift and Vive to their faces.

Blocks does have a few key differences from Tilt Brush. (Aside from the focus on 3D modeling over 3D "painting," we mean.) The first is that it's debuting on the Rift and the Vive at the same time instead of launching with one and expanding to the other afterwards. The second is that it's free, whereas Tilt Brush still costs $20. Both of those differences could help Blocks match Tilt Brush's popularity sooner than later.

You can download Blocks now from the Oculus Store and Steam.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.