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VR/AR – the future of games and the enterprise space (interview)

Unity is a game engine development platform used by many independent games developers for video games and simulations. It is cross-platform and one codebase supports 35 major operating systems and games systems. It has moved to VR/AR with a vengeance.

iTWire interviewed Quentin Staes-Polet, Unity’s director South Asia, SEA/ANZ, who is here on a visit from Singapore. His first comment was that Australia had an impressive game developer community, equal in talent to anywhere else in the world. His second was that the Sydney weather (about 13° at the time) was not like home.

Staes-Polet was on a mission – not to promote Unity as a gaming engine, but as the future VR (Virtual Reality) and AR/MR (Augmented/Mixed reality) engine and its use in the enterprise, government, medical, education, training, OH&S, and any area that requires visual interactive communication.

“We have spent the last few years looking at how games will morph to VR/AR and realised that we have all the tools and APIs – Direct3D, Vulkan, OpenGL/ES, and all the proprietary ones as well to seamlessly add VR/AR to the mix. By 2020 everyone will have a VR-enabled device in their pocket and VR at 60fps or more will be expected everywhere,” he said.

“Already 95% of the A/MR content produced on Microsoft HoloLens uses Unity. We are very strong in the PlayStation space in VR too. Unity allows developers to add VR/AR to anything. For example, we have tools to replace boring old PowerPoint presentations with VR/AR.”

VR AR MR

Image courtesy http://8ar.appearition.com/what-are-the-differences-between-ar-vr-and-mr/

Unity’s next move is to take the platform to the boardroom to show how it can be easily applied to manufacturing, real estate, sales, education, training, simulations and more. Unity may have started in games but it has organically become a leading tool for creating interactive VR/AR experiences of any sort in the process.

“The manufacturing sector has raised a demand for interactive and immersive platforms for their customers and internal work like QA builds and maintenance. This high-fidelity visualization cannot be achieved with standard 3D design tools. We want to work closely with IT integration firms that are building up augmented and virtual reality practices." Staes-Polet said.

Enterprise needs to understand that its communications will benefit too. Games are about story telling mixed with art and interactivity – a successful game is not that much different to a successful presentation with the goal of changing the way you think about the company or its products to induce a desire to purchase. Leading-edge companies are already harnessing VR for virtual exhibitions, shopping malls, house inspections, product launches, kitchen/house designs and so much more.

“VR/AR is moving very fast. Suppliers of 3D asset environments (created in CAD programs) to games developers simply cannot keep up – now the floodgates are open to so many other uses that this has become a boom segment,” he said.

Unity 3D“It is easy to use those 3D assets and the Unity engine to create a game or a presentation. Most of the work is done via drag and drop, adding textures, colours, effects like smoke etc., and we have real-time rendering (allows you to see the result immediately without slow post rendering). Movie studios have massive server farms to render and re-render – now a high-end games laptop can achieve the same outcome in real-time. You can even operate the Unity engine from within VR environments to really fine tune the experience on-the-fly,” he added.

Every day Unity is finding new use cases when businesses approach them – there is lots of experimentation going on. “Unity has a free personal edition that includes all engine features – you don’t need to pay until you earn US$200,000 or more from it. Graphic artists, photographers, designers, PowerPoint purists, and more should simply download it and have a play. Unity is a tool for the technical as well as the creative,” Staes-Polet added.

He spoke of new use cases in big data and analytics enabling visualisation software to see data.

Staes-Polet said, “Once actors stood in front of green screens with ping-pong balls stuck to them and recited their lines. How can you be in the groove in such an environment? Now those actors and directors wear VR headsets and see and feel what the audience feels – much more realistic performances. Look, everyone is in discovery mode in this space and Unity gives you to tools to see how you can use VR/AR.”

“Mobile is driving adoption with faster chips, GPUs, memory, storage, 4K, 360° cameras - VR and AR will become the standard sooner rather than later. But more than that mobile allows developers to access huge amounts of data about who the user is, where they are, what time they are using it, and how they are using it.

“For example, 75% of all apps in the App stores are games. If a game has dead spots (where players never go) or high exit points (where players leave the game) developers can see this via our analytics and fix it.

“But the real issue is monetisation. Those same analytics can drive ad serving, know when it is intrusive or not, know when to offer miro-payment for a new life or weapon/tool/token and more. Unity now has its own video ad-serving/publishing platform that has all the gaming smarts to help improve the player's experience and help drive a revenue stream from the free-to-play games.

“VR has/will also come to social media – social integration to see and feel what your friends are doing. It will open up new forms of virtual conferences, seminars and lectures and importantly have two-way communication and participation – nothing is as boring as watching a 2D speaker drone on.

In summary

  • VR will swallow the Internet – all sites will have VR options.
  • There is no reason to continue to use boring 2D when you can have 3D and experience more.
  • Got an idea – register, download and explore. 6.5 million downloads to date and 1.2 million active monthly users.
  • AR will transform the interaction between people and physical things (think Pokémon).
  • Everyone — technical or creative — needs to know Unity VR/AR and drive the next wave of communication. Unity is developing more courseware, certifications, and centres of excellence to democratise VR/AR. It solves the technical issues so you can create with the tools.
  • The world is/will be screaming for more VR/AR talent – get on board early.
  • VA/R will transform human/machine interaction in ways more powerful than voice, mouse, keyboard …

Staes-Polet's LinkedIn profile is here.

Some Unity visualisations below.

 Unity visualisations

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!