Facebook Hands Over VR Painting and Animation App Quill to Its Creator
Facebook has handed off its virtual reality illustration and animation tool Quill back to the developer who originally created the app Iñigo Quilez.
This comes almost two years following Adobe’s acquisition of Facebook’s VR sculpting app Medium and several members of the team building the PC-based software. This year also saw Google stop the development of the VR painting app Tilt Brush in a move that also saw Google open sourcing the VR app.
App Relisted as Quill by Smoothstep
Following Facebook’s handover of the Quill app, the app’s original developer Quilez has gone on to form a company known as Smoothstep and rebranded Quill to Quill by Smoothstep which is now available on the Oculus Store. The app will now belong to the creator and his startup Smoothstep. According to his LinkedIn profile, Quilez left Facebook in May 2019.
The original Quill app will be yanked from the Oculus Store on October 18th but the app will still work for those who downloaded it. However, Oculus will no longer be supporting the original Quill app so users will need to manually upload creators to Oculus Media Studio rather than via Quill as well. The Smoothstep version of the app is already available in the Rift Store.
With Facebook no longer maintaining the app, Quilez’s team will assume responsibility for further development.
Quill File Format Open Sourced
Facebook stated that Quill content shared on Oculus TV or Oculus Media Studio will still be available on Oculus for the time being. The Quill Theater app will be on the store and will be renamed to VR Animation Player in October. The Oculus team also stated that Smoothstep open-sourced Quill Theater’s IMM immersive content distribution file format (IMM) as well as an IMM player. Smoothstep is hoping that the open sourcing “will result in an expanded creator and audience ecosystem for VR animation.”
Quilez created the first Quill version in a 2015 hackathon to help in the production on Oculus Story Studio’s VR short, Dear Angelica. Quilez was a member of the Oculus Story Studio which experimented with VR storytelling on behalf of Facebook. The early VR animation film and Emmy winner Henry emerged from the studio.
Dear Angelica was the first film to be entirely hand-painted inside a virtual reality environment. Quill has since been adopted by other filmmakers and the works created by the VR painting and animation tool have been screened at major film festivals such as Venice and Sundance.
The Quill Version 2.0 was released in 2019 and enabled virtual reality designers to animate inside for the first time and breathe some life into 3D drawings. Quill enabled artists to create impressive virtual reality scenes as well as VR films such as Namoo and The Last Oasis which were showcased in film festivals.
Quill requires lots of computing power and is currently only available on Facebook’s Rift platform. For Oculus Quest, there is currently the VR app Quill Theater, a gallery that allows you to play Quill creations. Quill Theater will continue to be available for Oculus Quest and Oculus Quest 2 but under the new generic name VR Animation Player. This change is also set to take effect on October 18th.
Google Also Abandoned a VR Creative App Project
While Facebook speaks of the Quill handover back to its creator as a “new milestone for Quill”, the company is, in effect, abandoning the virtual reality app and leaving further development to Quilez’s startup. Facebook, is thus, unlikely to make any money with the free version of the application. Facebook did not divulge any reasons for its offloading of Quill but this can be explained by the fact that Quill is a PC VR app and is, thus, outside Facebook’s core VR interests. The situation would probably be different if Quill were available for Oculus Quest.
The move also fits with Facebook’s distancing itself from internally developed virtual reality content and tools. Facebook closed the Oculus Story Studios in 2017 on the grounds that it wanted to promote external VR content development instead of developing its content internally. This was followed by Facebook’s 2019 sale of the PC VR app Medium to Adobe. Like Quill, Medium was built for design in VR.
A similar development was seen in Google where the tech giant got rid of its own VR creative app Tilt Brush which it handed over to the open-source community at the beginning of this year.
In the next few years, we are going to see major companies like Apple and Sony entering or pushing deeper into the virtual reality and mixed reality realms. This will create a massive opportunity for developers of virtual reality creation tools like Quill in the medium term.
Quill by Smoothstep is available in the Rift Store while Quill Theater is available in the Quest Store. Both apps are free.