December 4, 2019
Build: Munich ’19 for Automotive: real-time workflows come of age
An impressive lineup of speakers from companies including Audi, Daimler, Mercedes, BMW, and McLaren took to the stage to give insights into the ways they’re harnessing real-time technology for everything from improved design collaboration to cost-effective marketing.
The event showcased how interactive workflows have come of age across the automotive industry, with many presentations centered around real-time projects that have moved out of the development phase and into day-to-day use across automotive businesses. The sheer speed at which real-time workflows are developing across the automotive industry had attendees talking. “I've seen so much,” said Seamus Walsh, Global Account Manager at LG Electronics. “The pace of the development is really astounding. It just starts so many new conversations.”
In tandem with innovative new use cases, the projects on display illustrated how rapidly the quality of real-time tools and workflows is advancing. “This is the third year in a row that we've been here, and the bar is just getting higher and higher every year,” said Staffan Hagberg, CMO at Animech.
A case in point is the presentation by McLaren, which began by tracing the evolution of the company’s configurators. From a game-changing proof-of-concept 570S configurator that was built in collaboration with Epic Games in 2016, McLaren is now leveraging real-time technology to improve ROI across its marketing funnel with the new GT configurator.
McLaren embraces real-time design and marketing pipelines
Whereas previously the company had two separate workflows for its 3D dealership and 2D online configurators, the GT configurator renders out of Unreal Engine with one workstream pipeline for everything. “It takes down costs, it takes down time, and it gives us more creative control,” said John Bulmer, Visualization Lead at McLaren. “This is how we're going to do our configurators from now on.”
McLaren also gave an insight into how it’s using real-time workflows in the design process. As well as harnessing the power of tools like Vector Suite, it has built a number of its own custom tools that empower designers and engineers to review designs in real time, enabling them to measure sections, add notes, or create an exploded view of car designs in an interactive environment. With the option to perform reviews in VR proving popular, the team has plans to explore further avenues for immersive review including mixed reality with Magic Leap.
Other real-time applications the business has developed include interactive previz sessions to plan shots before a physical photoshoot of a new car takes place, and photoreal teaser renders to generate demand before a car is built.
It’s just the start of a real-time transformation across the company, according to Mark Roberts, Head of Design Operations at McLaren. “We're going to start spreading out throughout the design and engineering side of the business with these Unreal tools,” he said.
Audi gave a fascinating look at how real-time workflows are at the heart of its vision for the future, thanks to the technology’s ability to create more marketing content for more channels. “The future is going to be different than today,” said Thomas Zuchtriegel, Head of AR/VR data, process and technology at Audi Business Innovation GmbH. “You're going to have AI-driven recommendations. You want to show personalized, location-based, and device-specific content, and the major factor for this is time to market.”
Audi looks to the future with Pixel Streaming
Zuchtriegel spoke about two innovations that play into this vision; cloud streaming and a new install updates system. Unreal Engine’s Pixel Streaming is enabling Audi salespeople on the road to show customers the same high-fidelity visualizations on an iPad that they would normally have to be on a high-end PC to see. Connecting via a web browser to a packaged Unreal Engine application running on a server in the cloud, there's no need for users to install or download anything, and they can interact with the application using keyboard, mouse, and touch input. “Pixel Streaming has been a very smooth experience for us since we got it,” said Zuchtriegel. “It is more or less plug-and-play.”
Audi has also discovered a fast and agile way to propagate updates across its fleet of CG vehicles showcased across dealerships. Leveraging the Build Patch Services system that comes with Unreal Engine, Audi can patch fixes to individual materials without having to download the whole car, reducing demand on the often low bandwidth that dealerships have to work with. “It's super efficient and flexible. If you make only small changes, it's only delta update size,” said Zuchtriegel. “We're very happy with Build Patch Services. It's a great tool.”
BMW showcases a new interactive dealership experienceBMW used its time on stage to showcase Eve, an Unreal-powered dealership experience for both VR and large screen that has been pushed out to thousands of dealers.
Since 2012, BMW has had an army of high-performance rendering machines across its dealerships that are either being under used, not used at all, or connected to a dated front-end system. Project Eve saw the company leverage the existing hardware it had in combination with the latest cutting-edge real-time software to provide a new solution of mind-blowing visual quality.
Built on Unreal Engine, Eve enables the user to swap different models of BMW instantly, interact with the car by performing actions such as opening the door or popping the trunk, change the environment, and do all this on any device, whether it’s a customer’s Android phone or iPad, or a sales advisor’s laptop.
Real-time workflows transform Daimler’s engineering review processDaimler Protics showcased its multiplayer real-time platform for engineers that enables them to perform design reviews at full scale in a fully immersive environment. Jürgen Riegel, Project Lead and Principal Software Architect explained how the team collaborated with NetAllied Systems to develop a plugin to integrate technical 3D CAD renderer UberEngine into Unreal Engine.
The manufacturer’s new solution, Engineering Hub, provides a way to load 3D CAD data directly from the PDM system at runtime and simultaneously leverage all the real-time, interactive functionality of a game engine.
Design and engineering teams located in different parts of the world can now collaborate far more effectively than the traditional method of Skype or phone. They can inspect designs, make notes, adjust sizes and colors, reposition elements, and save files back to the PDM system for later use in the development process—all in a shared multi-user immersive environment that's accessible from anywhere.
Experiencing VR as car passenger with MercedesMercedes showcased an experimental project called “Lucid Dream.” The aim of the project is to marry the sensation of being in a moving vehicle with engaging visuals provided via a VR headset.
The presentation explained that the team had to overcome a number of challenges during the development of the prototype, including how to combat motion sickness and how to precisely match the visuals with the movement of the user’s head.
Developed with an eye on the coming era of ever-more comfortable (and potentially autonomous) cars, Lucid Dream is an example of how real-time technology could one day be harnessed beyond design, engineering, and marketing to enhance the experience of travelling in the car itself.
The open automotive platform and data mode of the futureA recurring theme that ran throughout every presentation at Build: Munich ‘19 for Automotive was the enthusiasm for creative innovation at automotive companies.
With key automotive players capitalizing on the open nature of UE4 to create cost-effective, innovative new tools, it’s clear that fast, creativity-fostering real-time workflows are going to continue to offer a world of possibilities for the industry.
We believe the future lies in a consolidated, open automotive platform and data model that supercharges the production pipeline. At this year’s Build: Munich event, we caught a glimpse of this future beginning to emerge. “What I've seen from a lot of companies is that they’ve built their whole pipeline—engineering, design, marketing, on Unreal,” said Marc Eckel, Head of VR Exterior, Cubing at BMW Group. “It's not a multiplatform system anymore—it's just Unreal. And this, by the way, is where we’re also heading.”
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