“Paint with all the colors and directions of the wind!” - Cameron Harvey


Many artists, professional or amateur, struggle with getting their ideas to the public. Innovative technology such as virtual reality (VR) brings a new set of options to these artists, making the opportunities to express themselves limitless. With VR, the artist’s room becomes his or her canvas where the artist can explore his or her ideas boundless. VR revolutionizes how the artist creates and sees his or her artwork and allows he or she to be himself or herself, respectively.

The goal of this project was to develop a VR painting app that creates a comfortable, calming environment to create artwork and improves the quality of life of the user. Specifically, the app targets users who like to draw by improving current technology available to the users. The app includes features such as a 360˚ canvas, an extended color palette and brush selection with activation by a controller, and the option of undoing strokes. The app supports the idea of VR painting by also giving artists who have limited mobility the chance to create works of art once again.

VR is a medium where there is an equal chance for all kinds of artists to create art. It is an environment where users can explore their creativity and imagination. This app is designed to give a chance to all who dare to try it.

What it does

The 360˚ canvas allows the user to paint anywhere he or she wishes to with just a tap of a button. The user is able to paint anywhere he or she is able to see. This ability unlocks possibilities of painting on the sky and ground, creating no boundaries to stop the user’s creativeness.

The app also allows the user to paint unrestricted with the aid of multiple color palettes and brush types otherwise not found in other free commercial available options. With 81 possible colors and the ability to change opacity, depth, or size at the swipe of a button, the user’s options to paint with are limitless.

Undoing is a simple feature that requires a press of the app button. One press undoes a part of the stroke whereas holding it erases the whole painting, allowing the user to start on a blank canvas.

How we built it

The framework of this app is from the github repository android-sdk-googlevr. Code that relates to setting up the VR environment, initiating sensors on a Daydream ready phone, and enabling the controller handler events are all from Google Inc.

Additional elements added such as extended color palettes, different brush types (opacity, depth, size), erasing, and saving are created by Varnika Sinha, Sarah Dogar, and Cameron Harvey.

Android Studio was the app development environment we chose to work in. We coded the app in Java and C++.

Challenges we ran into

We had some problems with saving. At first, we tried saving it as a 360˚ panorama, but there is no available technology in the phone capable of taking a screenshot in the VR headset without an external camera. Then, we tried saving the vectors created from the strokes in an input file, which would be stored internally on the phone. When the user wishes to access the painting, the file would be read into the app.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are proud to master such a new technology. The Daydream was released last November, and the developer tools were released this February. In such a short time, we have created our own piece of technology without any help of apis or apks.

What we learned

Most of the group did not know C++ beforehand. The software used, OpenGL, is coded in C/C++, which required the developers to learn it.

We also researched a lot of about the current technology with VR.

What's next for Imagine: VR Painting

An additional feature that could be added in the future is the ability for a user to animate their creations. The animation feature would require the implementation of a frame-by-frame painting process.

Another additional feature that could be added is user art-sharing. Users of the app could visit other artists’ galleries and view the paintings they have created.

Paint by head tracking allows even users with physical disabilities to experience the joy of painting in the comfortable, calming environment of VR.

The option of activating paint options with voice command prompts also opens doors to those who are unable to access or use the Daydream controller.

We decided we will also expand this app to other VR headsets and launch this app on Google Play.

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