"Technology from the gaming industry is 2017’s most prominent trend in simulation and visualisation", writes Daniel Johansson at HiQ.
Driving simulations and visualisations have traditionally been the exclusive province of big companies, who have chosen to invest heavily in these technologies, since they have been required to build entire solutions themselves. This approach offers distinct advantages over adopting someone else’s solution, as the product can be tailored to meet specific needs with a relatively high degree of fidelity. But there are drawbacks, too: it is difficult to recruit people with the right competencies, and it is expensive to achieve a high level of quality in your simulations or visualisations. Of course, there have also been companies that have sought to sell off-the-shelf solutions for simulations, most notably to clients in the military sector. But this often involves a major purchasing commitment, with buyers having to rely on the claims made by the seller when investing in a product that has few competitors.
" Today’s global gaming industry is worth 1,000 billion Swedish kronor (more than 105 billion euros).
Today’s global gaming industry is worth 1,000 billion Swedish kronor (more than 105 billion euros). It is an industry where all companies are competing with global products, copies of which can be made for free. As a result, this sector is a highly competitive environment and the products that climb all the way to the top of the heap have a truly formidable reputation.
Previously many of the products for gaming and entertainment applications were developed based on an enterprise business model, with the software costing thousands or tens of thousands of euros. However, the rise of the indie culture, with small companies creating a successful product, has brought about a change. This has led to a situation where many of the tools that are now available are either totally free to use, or charged on monthly contract rates, or free of charge for use internally within a company in return for a percentage of the profit made on sales of a product developed with the aid of the tool.
One area of technology that has much to gain from using gaming technology is graphic fidelity; the gaming industry is almost 10 years ahead of simulation software in terms of its proficiency in this area. Take realistic sound, for example, that enables you to hear the difference between sounds in a corridor and those in the open air. Other areas where the gaming industry is far ahead in terms of software development are artificial intelligence, physics, multiplayer functionality and the construction of large, complex worlds. One problem in adapting to this generational shift – making the change from doing everything yourself to beginning to use gaming technology solutions instead – is that there is such an enormous amount to learn. There is a world of difference between using an animation solution that someone has been sweating over for a month in order to rescue an ill-fated project and using a solution that a dozen people have been collaborating on for 10 years in one of the planet’s most highly competitive markets.
So, what products are there that may be able to help you?
If you think of the process as a pipeline, where you first create content as 3D models, landscapes and sound, you can either turn to the real giants in this field, like Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya computer graphics software, or use free, open-source alternatives such as Blender. For texturing, there is Quixel Suite and Allegorithmic’s Substance that enable you to implement physically based rendering techniques so that materials appear realistic in all lighting conditions. Then there is also software such as Simplygon, which transforms the highly detailed CAD models that companies have developed into models that can be rendered equally convincingly in real time applications.
Once you have your content, you can then load it into a game engine such as Unreal Engine or Unity3d to interact with the content in real time.
The process is somewhat similar to that of developing a game. Here, however, the focus is not on entertainment, but on the speed/cost of producing a simulation or visualisation, reproducibility and measurability when testing. The focus is also on usability for experiences such as the visualisation of an apartment, where the customer needs to be able to take the controls and use the product intuitively, preferably without any external guidance.
Taking so many components into account inevitably means that there is a certain threshold to overcome for those who already have simulation solutions, primarily in terms of competence development. But making the transition to basing solutions on gaming technology also means that recruiting new talents becomes simpler, that the fidelity of the product is improved, that more departments within the organisation can use simulation and visualisation to test their products at a lower cost and earlier in the development process, and that new companies who have not previously used simulation and visualisation can begin to do so.
In a world that is becoming constantly more competitive, it is essential that you use the best tools that are available. Your competitors are already doing so!