Open Brush

This is a wonderful piece of software that has a couple of specific hardware requirements. You will need Valve's SteamVR with a supported virtual reality headset, and perhaps most challenging at the moment, a reasonable graphics card. But Open Brush is easily worth the effort. It's best described as an immersive sketching and drawing tool where you, the artist, draw in the three-dimensional space around you – just as you might by drawing an imaginary line in front of, above, and around you. For many years, it was a commercial Windows-only product called "Tilt Brush," purchased from the original engineers by Google. Its development corresponded with Google's big push into VR, first with Cardboard and then with Daydream, between 2016 and the latter's cancellation at the end of 2020. But Tilt Brush remained an independent product and was initially released with the HTC Vive before going through years of incremental updates. However, there was never a Linux version, and it was never open source.

But unlike many of Google's other abandoned projects, Tilt Brush wasn't destined to become yet another entry on Instead, Google released the entire project under the Apache 2.0 license and gave it to the community. The only restriction was the Tilt Brush trademark, which meant new builds of the project needed a new name. And this is what Open Brush is – a community built progression of Tilt Brush, completely open source and more importantly, now available for Linux, albeit in a now experimental and unstable form. Open Brush does for VR what Deluxe Paint did for the Amiga. It's the perfect ambassador for the underlying product, because it's easy to use yet shows the potential of the platform. With two controllers in the 3D space in front of you and a palette of colors, brushes, and effects attached to your left hand, you simply start drawing. You can use your controller to change the brush size and color, and there are many brush types, including animated brushes, types that respond to sound input, and tools with various particle effects.

You typically start with Open Brush by mimicking the 2D pictures you'd draw on a piece of paper, and this is apparently what the original version of the application was built to do. But you soon learn that real inventiveness comes when you pull backwards or forwards into the space around a single plane. Try drawing a 3D cube, for example, or a three-dimensional tree, and before long you'll be drawing a house around you, or a camp, or a garden, or a spaceship. The whole experience is very therapeutic and accessible. But it's also capable of some very serious results. There are examples where 3D designers have used the Open Brush environment for real world architecture, visualization, and model design. You could do all of this with the original Tilt Brush, but Open Brush is also adding experimental features of its own, including multiple mirrors, new brush types, and of course, this Linux version. It's fantastic to see such a professional, important, and broad application like this get both an open source release from Google and such strong community support.

Project Website

If you can imagine drawing with your fingers in the space around you, you can use Open Brush in virtual reality.
There are many hidden features in Open Brush, including a charades game, 3D model import and export, and audio animations.

Retro game IDE

GB Studio

There are quite a few retro-orientated games development frameworks, such as the proprietary Pico-8. These typically exist to artificially impose some of the restrictions of old hardware, such as a low resolution and color palette, to help foster creativity. They've produced some amazing results. GB Studio is similar but differs in one important way: The restrictions it imposes aren't artificial but required, because the resultant binary from your game design is intended to run on a bona fide 1980s-era Nintendo Game Boy 8-bit console. The main application even includes a play button to preview your project on an integrated Game Boy emulator so you can be sure it will work. This may seem like a crazy idea, but there's a booming cottage industry in building games for old hardware, both for the pleasure of creation and because of these enforced limitations.

GB Studio is a far cry from what Game Boy development must have been like in the late 1980s. It's a beautifully engineered Electron application that aims to help the game creator at every step, from providing templates for common game types and an active community to making it possible to almost drag and drop a complete game. You start by creating assets externally or using the brilliant built-in template. You then add these to a new scene, which is equivalent to a screen in the game, alongside actors and event triggers. Events can be one of many types, such as game text, scene modifiers, variables, and various control flow elements such as joystick control, and it's here that you build your game logic. There is a lot to learn, but the process is always visual and very intuitive, and you don't need to be a programmer, making it ideal for anyone who wants to try their hand at retro game development for real hardware.

Project Website

GB Studio includes three layers of background parallax, a tracker for music, and the ability to sync events to musical queues.

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