Arup Unity3D ConferenceSystems & Tools 09 May 2013 | 4.38am
Over the years we have been using a number of games engines to visualise our 3D and spatial analysis data. Over a decade ago we actually developed our own engine called Realtime and used to visualise projects like Anish Kapoor’s Marsyas. You can see what we did here.
We stopped coding the engine itself and moved to either proprietary or open source engines such as Quest3D and OGRE, while we shift the emphasis in our coding effort towards connecting our geometry, rendering and analysis tools into which ever game engine is best suited for the purpose. Last year we started using Unity3D much more widely and we noticed quite a few of our collaborators also using Unity3D.
Different groups in Arup have already used the Unity platform on projects and for a host of applications. Colin Hanford from our Cardiff office and Luke Cooper from Manchester decided to organise a global online conference to share what we are doing with Unity3d and we thought we’d share some of it again here. We are great at sharing at Arup but sometimes for odd reasons. Colin planned the conference while he was visiting Australia to see the first Collingwood game of the 2013 AFL season. Someone visiting Cardiff introduced him to AFL and so he flies to Australia to watch games when he can…
So back to Unity3D – one of our tests is the ability of a game engine to handle large amounts of data and still operate with a decent frame rate and we have put Unity3D through its paces with multiple analysis sets we visualise (see Submerge project). We’re certainly pushing its capability with Submerge but we are quite happy with the performance. Amongst the largest data sets are those generated by MassMotion, where crowd simulation data is brought into models and played back for crowd analysis and visualisation. The next test, and a big advantage of the platform, will be the ability to publish these datasets via Submerge to tablets.
Yamin Tengono and Jon Osborne from Melbourne have been working with Anne Guthrie in New York to bring together tools such as CAD-walker and Impulsonic on US based projects to deliver interactive environments that model the acoustics of a space. The models are set up with sound points, and as the user navigates around these points they can hear the change in sound, exactly as they would in the real world.
Jon Morgan and David Barker showcased their work on a number of projects including their models to visualise computational fluid dynamics, and their testing of building façade options with dynamic rendering so an accurate understanding of performance as you move around a building can be ascertained. Think virtual reflections.
Their primary focus is to communicate complex engineering design, using data-driven visualisations as a way to tell a story. Compared with paper-based reporting, a game engine gives their team a much broader palette of communication tools to help clients understand complex systems and ultimately make meaning decisions from a multitude of possibilities. Unity3D has allowed them to publish interactive content both on mobile devices, allowing clients to explore their data collaboratively.
During our conference we saw plenty of BIM examples including a project in which a Unity3D model communicates with a client’s server in real-time, pulling facility data into the virtual environment to provide information for facility management.
Our UK visualisation experts displayed a working Unity3D model that was delivered to Cambridgeshire County Council. The aim of the project was to help communicate the impact of a proposed bypass on the setting of Ely Cathedral. The interactive model of the proposed bypass allowed the public to get an idea of what the design would be like in-situ and see how the bypass would affect their view of Ely Cathedral.
There was a great amount shared during the Unity3D conference and it highlighted the importance of future collaboration. One thing that became clear was the sheer number of possibilities that game engines can help explore, from design communication to data interrogation these platforms provide more and more sophisticated solutions for the built environment.