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3-D art creation with VR element offers immersive experience 

Kelly Jones 
Thanks to UCC’s Principal’s Innovation Fund, Year 9 media design students worked with exciting technology in an illustration and graphic design unit.
Originally piloted in the fall of 2022, the project is being led by tech integrator and design teacher Ryan Archer and Anne Kaye, art and design teacher.  Says Archer, “We wanted to explore different applications for student use of VR at the Upper School. We settled on Year 9 media design, and there were two classes involved.” 

Adding a virtual reality interface to 3-D art lets users experience their creations in a new way, providing a simulated three-dimensional, computer-generated environment in which to interact with the artwork. For their unit, students designed their own superheroes or supervillains, crafting them first in 2-D, expanding to 3-D, and also using VR. The assignment asked them to study and select one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a starting point for a character that embodied themes of sustainability.  

Initial pencil sketches were used as inspiration for the 3-D explorations in the Tilt Brush application. With Tilt Brush, artists use different tools and effects to paint the 3-D space around them in a compelling virtual reality. An Oculus Rift VR headset was used, which had been acquired as part of another Principal’s Innovation Fund initiative. Says Archer, “This unit has its limitations because it needs to be connected to a pretty powerful computer. However, that’s also an advantage because it can handle higher-performance applications like Tilt Brush.”

The students’ processes of working out multiple ideas and getting up close to an imagined physical version of their initial concept allowed them to be more invested in the creation of their final 2-D character and poster design, produced with Adobe Illustrator.  

As for future VR art applications, Archer says, “We’re always looking for ways to enhance the learning experience using different and engaging tools. One idea that came out of this experience was how we might use VR to design 3-D products that could then be exported to 3-D printable files and realized in the physical world.”

Kaye also sees a lot of potential for using VR to enhance students’ learning in the arts. She would like to use VR as a process development tool in DP visual arts in Year 11 and 12.  

Says Kaye, “There is a whole process portfolio — a marked component not unlike a sketchbook and a research journal — that students have to develop over the two years that I think could utilize the VR 3-D drawing and painting to conceptualize artworks that would either be created with traditional media, like paint or sculpture, or could evolve into an interesting and more complex 3-D digital project.”

Read more about the Principal’s Innovation Fund and its great project roster here.
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