October 1, 2019
Audi takes control of its real-time automotive visualization data
Developing the project alongside visualization specialists Mackevision, Audi put in place a team of Unreal Engine developers in house. By building up their own team’s UE4 competency, Audi were able to have a more direct influence on the development of the assets and code—all the while benefiting from Mackevision’s expertise.
For over ten years, Audi has used an established data conversion process in 3DExcite DELTAGEN to take its heavy manufacturing CAD data of a fully configurable vehicle and prepare it for use in marketing materials, and that process remains in place today. But since launching its UE4-based application, Audi has collaborated with 4D Pipeline to create an automated process on top of that, which converts the marketing asset into Unreal Engine for use in their dealer configurator. The resulting time savings have been phenomenal, reports Thomas Zuchtriegel, Head of AR/VR Data, Process & Technology at Audi: “The conversion now takes minutes instead of months,” he says. Just 17 minutes, in fact, without any human intervention.
What this effectively means is that whenever their vehicle data changes—for example, if there are new floors mats, or the headlights get a facelift—because the process is continually converting the data behind the scenes, the Unreal Engine file gets updated automatically, at no additional cost. The result is that the dealer configurator is able to show the latest version of the vehicle almost immediately.
While Audi commissioned this automatic data-prep and conversion process prior to the release of Datasmith, today anyone can take advantage of this feature and set up something similar; Epic has a team of support engineers who could help with this. Datasmith offers automatable data conversion and preparation tools for a wide range of CAD, BIM, and manufacturing formats including DELTAGEN (and also 3ds Max, SketchUp, and Cinema 4D).
Using the Unreal Engine asset within the dealer configurator is one thing. But now that the team at Audi has a real-time-ready asset in a functional Unreal Engine project at its disposal, the potential to use it other ways is huge—vastly increasing the return on investment.
Just a few examples of the types of projects that could be done are an interactive service manual; personal configurators, delivered to customers’ desktops via Pixel Streaming; custom, user-created videos so a buyer can show off the car they’ve just ordered to their friends; or—since the quality is so high—even marketing images for print, and videos for YouTube interstitials.
By taking control of its data and its code, Audi can leverage its initial investment into a much wider marketing channel. With its data pipeline in place, the team can continually refresh its real-time assets at virtually no cost, and use them to build a whole range of interactive experiences that reach a new generation of customers.
What’s more, with the source code under the team’s control, there is the potential to share the technology across other companies in the Volkswagen Group, thereby making further economies. It’s a prospect with obvious appeal.
Want to take control of your data and get a better return on your investment? Get in touch, and we’d love to have a conversation about how we could help.