In Unity3D version 5.0 (it’s beta-version at present) company-developer has officially announced a possibility of usage of their product not only for a game development but also for something not less enjoyable – for business.
The video has been produced to inspire the audience.
The video is composed entirely of the links to the implemented projects(non-game usage hasn’t been illegal before) but it seems like it’s only now, when the critical mass of those projects has been accumulated and 5.0 version(along with the other helpful products) attained the solidity that proves and justifies the complex approach to the industry. Here one gets a multiplatform IDE with even “multiplatformer” system of publication and deployment, all mobile platforms support, cloud-platform, improved asset-store for the rapid work results exchange, knowledge exchange instruments via forums and knowledge bases. The particular world has been created and indeed it has great chances to extend its borders more and more.
So, what useful things can be made with Unity(except for games of course) and which new possibilities of Unity 5.0 are going to be really helpful for a non-game usage.
1. Architecture visualizations, interior modeling
There are 2 large-scale projects implemented with Unity 3D in Russia(Planoplan – with Unity, Planner 5D – not with Unity), there’s an interesting project in Belorussia (Beladeco – with Unity) and a dozen projects in Europe and USA.
Basically those are public projects which are available via internet. They are divided into 2 types:
1.1 Interior builders
Those are relatively simple drawing programs of a 3D interiors model. All you need is just – a) an apartment plan(floor-ceiling-walls-corners-doors-windows) b) decoration(put decorating materials on all surfaces which we got as a result of the planning) c) Décor (furniture, technic, accessories – three-dimensional objects). Those drawing-apps may have an abstract filling of 3D objects – than it’s hardly distinctive from a computer game(Sims is probably the best of its kind). Or in catalogues for modelling can be real goods – then, following all general approaches, the goal of the project radically changes – it becomes an instrument of promoting the interior goods – following the principle «Try Before You Bye».
1.2. Interior demostration of the objects that are being built
Products of this kind(which are refered to in the Unity video) were developed mostly in the USA and Canada. The thing is – people in North America don’t usually make up an interior or a repair on their own. People over there have more than enough architects and designers who work conscientiously. Typical design choices are maximally considered, calculated and optimized by price due to the centralisation of purchases and a thrashing out of the installation technologies. There’s a sufficient number of typical choices – usually 5-6, for almost every taste and wallet(based on the price and the target group of an apartment).
2. Products configurators and animators
Another try-before-you-buy thing is, by the way, used for interior goods(especially furniture) and it is part of some products that belong to the previous family.
Unity tricks are fully applicable there – you can rotate a product(3D-model) as you wish, zoom it, set different lights, put different materials on the surfaces(leather, fabric, wood in a car interior etc.). When there’s a lot of design elements – a compatibility problem arises(could be solved in advance, i.e. compatible design complexes are offered).
The configurator may go with the match(they are often combined).
Animation system is just fine too - a car interior being transformed or the couch being folded out. – if you have a 3D-model - you can visualize that in half an hour in Unity.
As a result these tricks cause if not a purchase then a prior choice of the products on the Internet.
Eventually a “warmed up” client with the formed opinion goes right to the seller, all the seller has to do is not to screw the image. And a “cold” client needs to get his opinion formed first – and that is totally the other task.
Not only for pilots and/or spacemen. An update of the technological equipment, specialized technic, medical/experimental technic and so on requires some previous staff preparation – you need technologists, dispatchers, operators, drivers, service engineers and so on and so forth… Usually employers have to organize courses for their workers at the equipment producer’s place, then buy and create the training models – all that is necessary but it’s a long and expensive way for the customer. Moreover there are always the risks and stresses with the new equipment introducing – will it work, is it easily broken etc.
Simulator development can be a really rational solution here: a) the consumer could decrease a stress of a new equipment introducing by adapting to the new technic in a virtual world first; b) with the help of the simulator you can select the most capable ones, who later on can be sent to the expensive learning . A simulator can be adjusted to the conditions and features of each technological process – which is not always accessible when the real learning models are used.
The work can be dangerous and so do trainings. E.g. liquidation of the contingencies or emergencies, breakdowns, safety precautions prevention. In this case a simulator can be more realistic than a real training model because a recreation of some circumstances in a real life is just impossible, or irrationally expensive, or compromises learners and the environment.
Nowadays a great amount of different peripheral gadgets is available – glasses, steering wheels, helmets, joysticks, 3D-scanners. Toolbars and toggle switches can be easily drawn in the simulator. A good simulator can be made in a half of a year by a small team(1-3 developers + technologist in consultation condition + 1-2 equipment producer’s specialists for the consultations too).
If the boring schoolbooks filled with the expressionless illustrations were improved by adding the vivid interactive 3-dimensional models – then much more pupils and students would visit their classes enthusiastically and excitedly – hardly everyone has a developed dimensional imagination, which is a common reason of the studying problems. Many books could get a new image and spread far beyond the walls of the boring academic audiences.
Drill-down technology can’t surprise anyone now. But imagine a Drill-down of a management balance to the 3D-models level – especially Assets section: you click on the Assets line – first a list with the numbers appears, then you click on the “Milling machine” – a model of the machine in a workshop appears – you can turn it on or shut it down, observe how it is working, estimate the deterioration level(rendering can age textures of surfaces depending on the amortization level given in the report) – financial directors are going to like it. All in all – Business Intelligence sphere is huge and 3D is just what’s missing there, Unity is coming to you, put aside your Business objects and tremble, gentlmen BIs!
Now a little bit about the new version – Unity 5.0. As I mentioned it’s in open beta yet, but the free-version of beta from Unity is never available to download, so you can only take a closer look at the current version 4.6, otherwise you’ll have to wait for the official 5.0 release.
1.WebGL support for online-apps
Nowadays Unity apps can only be launched in browsers via plug-in Unity Web Player(You can also work in Chrome with NaCl – but because of a fact that NaCl is little-known this way of apps publication is really unpopular) but starting from the fifth version the compilation in WebGL will be available. This is certainly a giant leap for mankind! Many people don’t want to install Unity Web Player, that significantly decreases the apps audience. And if in the game world Unity Web Player is more or less known already, nobody knows about it among non-game users, and if somebody runs into something unknown every second one starts becomes dumb, and every one gets indignant.
There’s an awesome article in Unity blog about the details of the realization for WebGL.
The important thing is that many browsers(including Chrome) are planning to decrease significantly plug-ins possibilities with time, thereby stimulating HTML5 usage. The transition from Web Player to WebGL may turn out to be really vital. There’s still plenty of questions regarding the transition – features support, behavior, efficiency – but, as always, we will win!
2. Materials Rendering
Built-in shaders have been radically changed – a new multi-purpose shader has showed up. With this shader you can use rendering capabilities if you need. There are beautiful video-demonstrations on Youtube and great articles in Unity blog(with a link to the video).
With Unity 5 application we’re planning to lay aside the external shaders libraries – like for example good old Hard Surface Pro.
Thanks to the new engine Enlighten the light sources processing has been changed: lightmaps(shadows etc.), probes(light effects) and cubemaps(reflections and skyboxes) are being real-time computed now. It’s cool, first impressions are very optimistic.
4. Sound, real-time mixing
One of the big areas of focus for Unity 5.0 has definitely been in audio. After a quiet period of feature development in this area, we have been working hard at taking audio to a first class feature within Unity.
To make this work we first had to take a step back and re-work a lot of the underlying asset pipeline and resource management of audio within Unity. We had to make our codec choices solid and ensure we had a framework that allowed you guys to have a lot of good quality sounds in your game. I’ll try and cover this in detail in a later post, but right now I want to talk about our first big audio feature offering in Unity 5.0, the AudioMixer.
5. Even better animation
We rarely use animation, that’s why it’s hard to say something concrete.
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