Finally, a way to sketch 360 degree VR scenes

As new technologies, tools, and platforms spring to life in augmented and virtual reality, a new era of XR design and artistry is unfolding. Today, we announce the release of a project that empowers creators to spend less time explaining, editing, and re-doing XR creations, and more time being creative. Sketch 360, a Microsoft Garage project, is a UWP app that enables designers and artists to sketch and prototype 360 degree VR scenes–now available for free download in the Microsoft Store.

Innovation from Passion

The Microsoft Garage empowers employees to channel their passions into innovations that can, in turn, inspire and enable customers. Creative Experience Engineer Michael Scherotter has been nurturing a passion for using artistry to capture his adventures in traditional journals for over 30 years. “I love to travel and I’ve always found sketching such a great way to capture the essence of a place. Last year, it occurred to me that I might be able to pair my software skills with my love of sketching to build a richer, digital tool to capture the interesting places I’ve visited.”

Sketch360_screenshot_1-3Michael found it hard to sketch scenes in a classic or even digital notebook and crafted a new tool that would allow him to create digital, panoramic sketches viewable in all directions. “It’s very difficult to freehand draw in 360. You need to draw straight lines curved and you can’t see how your creation turns out until you’ve finished the whole thing.”

While Michael was originally inspired to build Sketch 360 to make the experience of sketching 360 environments more natural, he also quickly realized it may have other creative applications as well. “Sketch 360 is a game changer for designers working in XR,” according to Mike Pell, the Lead Designer for the Microsoft Garage and a big proponent of the possibilities for designers in XR. “This tool unlocks a whole new way to do rapid prototyping to fuel those experiences.”

Create and Prototype VR Scenes in 360 Degrees

As designers create and collaborate on 360 degree scenes, sketching provides a quick way to convey the vision of an end-product to a developer or other team member, paving the way to quickly create multiple directions on a design or make tweaks before moving on to the labor-intensive work of 3D modeling. With Sketch 360, a design team can align on the vision for a VR environment and save hours in changes and re-dos. In addition to VR design, Sketch 360 can be used in a variety of sketching scenarios. “I actually got my start in design at architecture school,” adds Michael. “I can see this being a great tool for architects looking for a digital canvas that brings their ideas to life.” With guided gridlines and a dual, ink/finished product interface, Sketch 360 can be useful both to designers, architects, and game creators prototyping early versions of a finished product as well as the casual user leveraging the canvas to sketch interior decorating vision or even artists using sketch as their medium.

“Sketch 360 is another really exciting tool for designers, just like Microsoft Maquette will be for in-device rapid creation,” shared Tom Mignone, a Program Manager on the Mixed Reality User Experience team and a contributor to another 3D project and Garage Wall of Famer, 3D Models in Office. “We want to empower creators to be more productive with Windows Mixed Reality and this Garage project joins a group of experiences all aimed at that.” Microsoft Maquette is a mixed reality tool for creating immersive prototypes using a PC VR headset. While Maquette strives to make spatial prototyping fast and easy with a focus on 3D objects, Sketch 360 focuses on the setting around those objects. Designers can use these two, complementary experiences to prototype both the environment of a VR experience and the elements within it. Maquette and Sketch 360 are compatible with mutiple PC VR setups including Windows Mixed Reality, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive.

Key Features

  • Trace along embedded, equirectangular gridlines designed for 360 degree scenes
  • See your design come to life with a side-by-side, dual interface
  • Create designs in a variety of thicknesses and in any of 30 colors, powered by Windows Ink
  • Use pen or touch to make your masterpiece, best on Surface with the Surface Pen
  • Adjust the settings for your preferred drawing experience including sketching on the right or left pane, changing gridline opacity and canvas color
  • Export your creations as JPEGs with 360 metadata that immersive experience sites like Facebook and Kuula enable or embed in full websites (HTML, CSS, JS, JPEG)
  • Tilt and rotate in senor-enabled devices
  • Import Sketch 360 files to edit and collaborate on a design
  • Work offline or on-the-go, works great on Surface Book 2 or Surface Go
  • Created with ease using Windows Ink APIs

Best with Surface

Sketch 360 is powered by Windows Ink and best with Surface Pen. And inspired by sketching while traveling, Sketch 360 is designed around the active, on-the-go designer who uses a Surface Go or Surface Book 2 as their digital canvas.

Try Sketch 360 and Share Your Creations with Us

Sketch 360 is available for free download at the Microsoft Store worldwide. Designers and creators can provide feedback on the experience and share their VR and 360 sketch creations with the Garage by tagging @MSFTGarage and #Sketch360 on Twitter and Instagram.