Wacom’s new stylus will let you create 3D drawings in virtual reality

One of the most practical uses of virtual reality is in product design, allowing engineers and artists to create, refine, and perfect something in 3D. instead of spending money to iterate real prototypes. Wacom, a company synonymous with art and design, has created a new version of his stylus which offers features like pressure sensitivity, which normally require a tablet,hat can be activated in the air in a VR environment.

It’s been slow to become an entertainment tool for consumers, but VR has long been used by companies creating large, expensive items (think cars, planes, etc.) where designers can benefit from the ability to move around a 3D model. and study it from different angles, even if the prototype only exists inside a computer. Known for its industry standard design tools, Wacom has long been looking for ways to adapt its tablet and pen technology, optimized for working in 2D, into a tool that allows artists and designers to use the same techniques in a 3D environment.

At CES 2019, we got a demo of Wacom’s work with Magic Leap to help leverage this VR hardware as a serious design tool, but there were some quirks in the workflow as it required the user to hold both a traditional Wacom stylus and one of the tablets of the company’s drawing in order to manipulate 3D objects floating in the air. It was neat, but awkward, and a demonstration of how Wacom’s technology should advance for virtual reality. Two years later, Wacom unveiled its new VR stylus with serious upgrades to the company’s traditional 2D styluses.

The company has yet to reveal full details of its Wacom VR Pen. Before being made available to consumers, Wacom teases hardware to encourage software developers to reach out so when the pen goes on sale, it will be well supported on the software side and not just neat hardware that doesn’t have many practical uses out of the box.

Looking like a traditional Wacom stylus that has been stabbed through a wobbly desk toy, the Wacom VR Pen works with the company’s drawing tablets but will continue to detect knocks when lifted from a desk and used in the airs. Instead of a built-in gyroscope to detect movement, however, the Wacom VR Pen uses its own custom tracking system on which the company has yet to release specs (such as how many sensors will be needed in a room) but promises that the system will work with most popular head-mounted VR displays.

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One of the benefits of using a tablet is that Wacom not only incorporates customizable shortcut buttons so artists don’t always have to use a computer keyboard, but it also facilitates pressure sensitivity, so by pressing harder with a stylus, artists can create thicker strokes or apply other effects on the fly. On the Wacom VR Pen, the pressure sensitivity is rather facilitated in the tip, So instead of pressing harder on a surface, users squeeze the pen tip with varying degrees of force to affect their strokes. A large scroll wheel with a centrally mounted button has also been incorporated into the bulge of the VR Pen, allowing quick access to tools and settings without having to leave a virtual reality environment.

One thing Wacom hasn’t revealed is whether or not the new VR Pen will need to be charged, but given that the company’s traditional styluses need to be in some proximity to Wacom’s powered tablets to work, the new VR version likely packs a built-in battery so it can be used in the air without wires.