Logitech revealed the VR Ink ‘Pilot Edition’, a stylus built for art and design in VR. Built with SteamVR Tracking tech, the stylus works similarly to a typical SteamVR controller, but affords the natural precision that comes with precise finger control. While it works well for drawing in the air, a pressure-sensitive tip also makes it great for drawing (and potentially evening writing) against a physical surface.
Aimed toward enterprises using VR for digital design workflows, Logitech says that it plans to bring the VR Ink stylus to market in the near future. For the company, today’s announcement of the ‘Pilot Edition’ is about getting the word out and soliciting interest from companies who want to use or integrate apps with the VR Ink stylus.I got a hands-on demo of the VR Ink Pilot Edition and came away suitably impressed with what Logitech has put together, both in performance and functionality.
Though it’s ‘just’ a stylus, the VR Ink has a surprising number of controls built right in. On the sides where you grip the stylus are two grip pads which can be squeezed as a form of input. On the top where your index finger rests is a pressure sensitive button at the front, an oval-shaped trackpad/button in the middle, and a smaller menu button in the back. There’s also on-board haptics, and the end of the stylus has a pressure-sensitive tip which allows for pressure-sensitive writing against physical surfaces.
It’s definitely bigger than a regular pen or pencil, but actually impressively compact when you consider all of the electronics that need to fit inside, and easy enough to grip just as you would a real writing implement.
The whole stylus uses SteamVR Tracking tech (supporting 1.0 and 2.0 base stations), and it can be easily used to draw lines in the air in art and design apps. For that purpose, it does feel more natural to use the pointy end of a stylus for tracing lines than using a big controller which restricts finer motions to wrist control, whereas a stylus benefits from fine finger control. Many readers on this site will be familiar with painting or drawing in 3D using VR, but the more exciting part of VR Ink is its ability to also draw precisely against a flat surface.
The stylus is a tool that’s been around for a millennia, and for good reason—the ‘free’ feedback of actually pushing a writing implement against a surface works perfectly in conjunction with the fine motor control that our fingers are capable of.
To make a stylus really work for surface drawing in VR, you need a lot of precision, and so far the VR Ink has impressed on that front. Largely driven by SteamVR Tracking, but undoubtedly assisted by the stylus’ pressure-sensitive tip, drawing against a table feels really natural. I’m by no means a digital artist who spends every day with a Wacom tablet, but I’ve used my fair share of tablet PCs with active digitizers (including the Surface Book as my primary laptop), and VR Ink’s drawing and pressure sensitivity felt very comparable.