Leopoly Blog

5 Great Ways to Design in Virtual Space

Jul 13, 2017 5:00:23 AM / by Kevin Jackson and Roland Mányai

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In our last blog entitled “Virtual Reality is the Future of Design”, we discussed the challenges of using CAD and modeling software and the opportunity to use virtual reality (VR) to both create and edit 3D models in room sized spaces. While this technology may sound like something from classic movies like “The Lawnmower Man” or “The Matrix”, it is very real and already being used by industry giants like Ford, Nike, and BAE Systems. 



What if Leonardo da VInci could have used virtual reality when he was designing bridges, war and flying machines, and musical instruments? Even for a genius like Da Vinci, sketching by hand or by computer can often cause a misinterpretation of an object and its surrounding space. These perception problems are typically not detected until after an object has already been built. The inability of traditional tools to properly represent 3D objects, therefore, can significantly slow down the design process as perceptional errors will always be inherent when using a 2D medium.

Virtual reality is a game changer for design because it offers an experience rather than a sketching tool. The errors associated with distorted representations can be reduced since the the experience is always three dimensional, interactive, and rendered in real time. It also give individual designers more freedom to innovate without being overly influenced by other people’s ideas, suggestions, and criticisms or by the confines of CAD software. Advances in virtual reality have now opened the door for multiple users to simultaneously collaborate on the design of an object. We think Leonardo would approve of this. 



  • Move, think and manipulate in 3D
  • Easier to navigate and locate points
  • Manipulate more freely in the right directions, with the desired intensity
  • Simple to check out results in any perspective
  • Compare size, design variation intuitively
  • Clearer communication of design prototypes to stakeholders, decision makers, clients
  • In digital drawing, interactive pen displays, pen tablets, and styluses were huge enhancements. In digital sculpting, VR input methods will be game changing.



For companies already actively using CAD software to design products, the ability to view and even collaborate on these products in a virtual space combines the best of both worlds. Companies that do not use CAD software can now virtually build products from scratch. We will now review five innovative solutions that can unlock a designer's creative animal spirits.



Google released Tilt Brush at the HTC Vive launch back on April 5th, 2016. The purpose of this VR app is to empower non-gamers to intuitively create and share artwork produced in a virtual space. Within seconds, users can paint in the air and and let their creativity run wild. This is why Tilt Brush is often referred to as VR’s first killer app.

There is no doubt that Tilt Brush will continue to evolve and a multi-player function will potentially open up collaboration opportunities between designers from all over the world. While Tilt Brush is an amazing application, however, it acts more like a game than an actual design tool.



While Tilt Brush is a “drawing in space” application, Oculus Medium is a voxel based, clay modeling like application. It works quite well with the Touch motion controllers that allows users to manipulate layers and create different objects in the same virtual space. Another key advantage of Medium is that it enables users to “sculpt in the air” and freely add materials. Recent upgrades announced on April 12th include more common reference images, new stamp collections, a renovated home screen, and the ability to record 2D videos without leaving VR. 

Perhaps Medium is a really good demonstration of the Oculus Touch technology, but it is not a tool for serious product designers. If you are modelling a cartoon character, then Medium will do the trick. If you are designing a real product where precision counts, then Medium will leave you a bit frustrated. 



While MakeVR offers CAD based modeling, the application lacks key precision tools such as grid, snap, and mirroring. Painting in brush like strokes is not available and users have to settle for changing the full colors and textures of faces or objects. Sculpting tools are also not available yet. 

On the plus side, however, the application run smoothly and one can easily and quickly create as much Boolean operations as desired. If you would like to merge, subtract, intersect objects, extrude flat shapes to 3D, or change textures, then MakeVR offers a solid UX. Overall, MakeVR has the potential to be a decent CAD-like modeling tool, but it needs to complement this with the precision tools that serious designers demand. 

The real competitor to this product comes from Virtalis’ VR4CAD, another serious solution touting itself as the “Gateway to Pro VR.” VR4CAD recently won the “Best AR/VR Award” at a Chinese Trade Fair and has attracted the attention of world famous companies and institutions like Rolls-Royce, AMRC, the British Geological Survey, and other players from the military and power industries. 



MasterpieceVR from Brinx is in beta mode and still developing an application that seeks to combine the painting functionality from Tilt Brush, the sculpting tools from Medium, and a multiplayer experience. When two people in the same virtual space are working on an object together, the changes done by each person are small and rendered in real time. This ensures that no one single person can dominate the process and stifle the creativity of another. It also offers the ability to “paint in the air” like Tilt Brush. 

While MasterpieceVR is a true, multiplayer innovator, it suffers from the same drawbacks as Tilt Brush and Medium. It is a really fun tool, but it more resembles a game than design software. 



ShapeLab offers a comprehensive toolset that enables designers to paint and sculpt with similar precision as Medium and the other aforementioned solutions. One key differentiator between Shapelab and the other solutions, however, is its usage of meshbased modeling rather than voxelbased modeling. For characters and mobs, mesh based modeling is better than voxel if you would like to avoid blocky, rasterized designs. Realistic voxel models probably require hundreds of times the number of voxels than a polygonal model would need in vertexes. Using voxel technology also means that you are dealing with not only the surface, but every internal “3D pixel and block” as well. This takes a lot of RAM and forces designers to treat their designs as a solid object, which means a higher possibility of geometric errors. Such unwanted errors can be small inner hole or stray material blocks hovering in the holes, which can cause difficulties when you are trying to 3D print the object or use it in a 3rd party game engines. Since mesh modeling just deals with the surface, it takes less RAM and there are no “inner space” pixels to worry about.

Mesh based technology also makes it possible to vary the resolution in the same mesh. For example, you can design a character with a very detailed head and a less detailed body. This kind of polygon control is crucial when it comes to 3D asset creation for animations, games and other apps. If you create something in a voxel based design app and you convert it to OBJ or STL (mesh files), then the end result is less predictable because the conversion automatic. 

ShapeLab also offers real time polygon generation and optimization while sculpting and for virtual painting, designers can mix the colors as if they are using a real palette and even set the resolution of the painting. Besides creation and assembly apps for enterprises, this is the first step by Leopoly bringing easy asset creation into VR for B2C. The roadmap going forward is an aggressive one and will include the following features in the near future:

  • Polygon control: Users will be able to optimize their advanced polygon count
  • Adjustable Painting Resolution: You are free to set your own painting resolution.
  • Adjustable Sculpting: More freedom for the users
  • Sculpt in the Air: Add material anywhere and everywhere
  • Multi-player: Collaborate in real time in your own virtual space
  • Object Mix and Scene Handling


We are seeing the technology from old movies finally becoming a modern day reality. There is no doubt that the traditional ways of sketching by hand or using a computer to represent 3D objects in 2D will result in design distortions. Virtual reality can significantly enhance the design process by reducing these distortions and allowing designers to have the freedom to see objects from their own perspectives. As we have discussed, there are some amazing VR applications available right now that can unlock your creativity and and turn your ideas into real products and content. Our next blog post will explore in more detail how virtual reality and 3D printing are a part of the same ecosystem. 


Topics: Augmented Reality, 3D Content Creation, Virtual reality, VR and AR Fusion, Investing in VR

Kevin Jackson and Roland Mányai

Written by Kevin Jackson and Roland Mányai

Kevin Jackson - Distinguished international business and marketing strategist with over 20 years of experience generating and sustaining global business partnerships. Entrepreneurial expert with outstanding record of developing new business concepts and strategies, creating global sales and marketing initiatives for virtual and augmented reality startups. Kevin is an accomplished writer who now leads the content team at Leopoly. Roland Mányai – Roland is the CEO of Leopoly and an innovative thinker and doer. He believes that 3D and VR technologies can improve our lives. With Leopoly he is working on offering easy to use tools to bridge the gap between high tech technologies and everyday people and companies. Roland is also founder of TEDxDanubia.