Image courtesy of Algoryx Simulation AB

Algoryx brings high-fidelity physics simulation to Unreal Engine

High-fidelity simulations aren’t possible without a keen understanding of physics—the motion and behavior of matter through space and time, and the forces that affect it.

Top-ranked Swedish AI company Algoryx used its mastery of computational physics, mathematics, computer graphics, virtual reality, and computer science to create a multibody dynamics simulation physics engine that delivers high fidelity, stability, and speed to spare for real-time engineering simulation applications.

“The initial idea of Algoryx was to be the world's best physics center,” says Kenneth Bodin, CEO and Co-Founder of Algoryx. “We wanted to build the best physics center in the world for industrial and professional scientific applications. The first application area we worked in was virtual reality simulators.”

Algoryx has just released its AGX Dynamics for Unreal plugin, bringing accurate true-to-life mechanical simulation solutions to a wide variety of industries including aerospace, forestry, mining, heavy machinery, robotics, manufacturing, and others.
Image courtesy of Algoryx Simulation AB

The new plugin offers developers and engineers the ability to team Algoryx’s renowned high-fidelity physics system with Unreal Engine’s photorealistic real-time 3D graphics, and use its powerful, open platform to build state-of-the-art training and testing solutions for machine operators.

“You need simulation tools that combine industrial-grade physics with the highest-quality graphics you can find. And you need to combine that with control systems, machine learning systems, sensors, and simulations. That's why Unreal Engine is so important to us,” says Bodin.
Image courtesy of Algoryx Simulation AB
“When we were developing virtual reality applications back in 1999 to 2000, we didn't find any tools,” says Anders Backman, Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of Algoryx.  “There were some costly applications out there, but you had to write all the software yourself. So we ended up developing our own scriptable 3D rendering application with sound, physics, and haptics connection to all kinds of gadgets. It had a lot of features that exist today in the game engine, but we were quite early in doing real-time physics with all these features.”

Originally, it was difficult to get industry customers to migrate to this type of platform. There was a resistance to the technology. But, says Bodin, that all changed several years ago.

“We saw a complete change in the engineering market for a couple of reasons. One was the first big push toward sustainability, to go to electrification, which required entirely new types of vehicles. With that, there was a need to simulate the system to get a holistic picture. The next thing that came right after that was machine autonomy. You can't attach artificial intelligence to a real vehicle and hope that it will work. To enable machine autonomy, autonomous self-driving machines need to work in simulation,” he explains.
Image courtesy of Algoryx Simulation AB

And Backman reveals that the release of Unreal Engine 5 was a “quantum leap” that changed the mindset of a lot of people.

“Suddenly you can do photorealistic rendering in real time, which is excellent for vehicle simulation in snow, foggy environments, the dark, or in rain—really realistic weather situations,” Backman says. “That hadn't been possible before. That's something our customers really love and want to have.”
Image courtesy of Algoryx Simulation AB
“We wanted Algoryx to offer both bottom-up and top-down solutions,” says Bodin. “So we developed the first direct integration in Unreal Engine as a bottom-up plugin for general use. Top-down, we also work on solutions for industry customers, which is an emerging market for us. Being able to be platform-centric bottom-up, and then do real design applications top-down is a crucial combination.”

Algoryx developed AGX Dynamics to be able to solve many types of problems. Bodin explains that is something that Unreal Engine and Algoryx have in common.

“The Unreal Engine platform is very special. The platform is very general so that you can do almost anything with engineering simulation, scientific facilitation, and virtual reality. We also wanted the platform to be open and available so that our customers can extend it and go beyond what we can do,” he says.

And because Unreal Engine is a largely distributed development platform that is available to everyone, Bodin says there are plenty of competent Unreal developers and talent to support the development of their applications.

One of those talents who partnered with Algoryx is Mikael Lugnegård, an art director for Maximum Games and graduate of the prestigious Institute of Design at Umeå University. He created the futuristic interpretation of the wheel loader Algoryx uses to demonstrate their technology.

“It was a blast to design the wheel loader based on real-world data, with working mechanics, and still push the envelope visually,” he says. “Finding the language and character to make the wheel loader standout was really intense."
Image courtesy of Algoryx Simulation AB
For Bodin, the workflow and ease of use in Unreal Engine is one of the factors for using it as the platform for AGX Dynamics. “Being able to develop things without being a programmer is something that we really appreciate.”

Algoryx predominantly uses C++ and Python programming languages in the development of their product, which Bodin says is a great combination in Unreal Engine. “They give you performance, extensibility, flexibility, and ease of access.”

“You need to take good care of your programming,” adds Backman. “Writing the C++ code is a slight challenge, but you get really good performance. When you have loaded everything, you don't have to wait for something to compile every time you change your file. You just compile once and then you're loaded and it's up and running.”

The rendering, above all, is important when implementing all the physics applications and computations Algoryx requires to provide the best services for its customers.

The Algoryx plugin allows for the creation of bodies with mass, shapes that can collide, and contact materials to define friction or restitution directly into the Unreal Engine editor. Customers can also model wires using winches and connect them to a body.
Image courtesy of Algoryx Simulation AB
“We have a pipeline where you can import a CAD model, update the rendering material, and have your finished product with dynamics already included added directly into the environment,” says Backman. “And, if I change something, Unreal Engine knows everything about rendering. Unreal Engine is really state-of-the-art in rendering. There’s absolutely no question about that.”

Get an evaluation license from Algoryx for free and take it for a test drive. All developers and engineers can now build true-to-life high-fidelity physics simulations in real time by leveraging  the AGX Dynamics for Unreal plugin as part of their Unreal Engine-built applications.

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