When it comes to art, there’s simply no beating the in-person experience. No matter how advanced virtual reality (VR) gets, no matter how impressive its displays and how deep its extras, artwork will always be best seen as it was originally intended in a gallery. There’s no getting around that, but there is accepting it, and creating the next best thing with VR art (or VArt as it will no doubt come to be called. That’s what Woofbert has done with its free app for Gear VR, which proves that the technology can be an incredible additive experience for art lovers.
The Woofbert app is available for free and well worth a look for anyone interested in the possibilities of VR art. The experience is set in a simple, spacious room, not unlike one you’d find in a real gallery. Several paintings are dotted around the walls, which you can view by simply looking and tapping on the on-board touchpad. The camera will then slowly walk over towards the given artwork, and you’re left with a number of options from here.
Experienced VR users might first worry about what would be lost here thanks to the screen door effect, which concerns a display’s pixels being visible through the lenses of the HMD. Fortunately, Gear VR has one of the best displays yet for VR, and it can be hard to even pick up on this issue when looking at some of the darker paintings in the experience. It’s not perfect, but this isn’t as much of an issue as you might suspect.
What small sacrifice Woofbert makes in clarity it more than makes up for in information, however. Double tapping the touchpad when looking at any painting will start up an impressively detailed explanation of the work concerning its artist, while looking towards the floor will bring up a tablet from which you can view reams of further info. If you want to research art as much as you do contemplate it, then Woofbert proves that VR is going to be a vital tool for the future of the industry.
Another big plus is the ability to zoom in and inspect any painting in detail. It’s a testament to the quality of the resolution here that the images don’t start to blur as you peer closer, though it’s a shame that the Gear VR’s lack of positional tracking means that has to be done through zooming in artificially rather than leaning in for yourself. Woofbert does let you get closer to a painting than many galleries would dare let you go, and there’s something to be said for that.
In fact, there’s something to be said for Woofbert’s mission overall. This is just a taste of what we want to see out of VR art and it’s already up to an impressive standard. It would be great to start seeing accurate virtual replications of sculptures that give you a real sense of scale, or visiting seasonal exhibits that have been curated to coincide with specific events. Even more exciting is the prospect of commissioning works developed-in and fully utilising VR itself, which could be a bold new frontier for artists.
Just as we’re never going to stop visiting other countries, hitting ski slopes or diving the depths of the ocean, we’re never going to stop going to galleries and viewing art as it was intended to be seen. But that doesn’t mean that VR art won’t play an important role in the future. Perfecting the concept is a long-term task, but Woofbert is already proving it can be done.