Creating a digital showroom: Audi and Mackevision choose UE4
They were able to use the existing CAD data and bring it directly into the Unreal Engine. With the real-time lighting and shadows and more realistic reflections provided by Unreal Engine, “the car really felt for the first time like a real car,” says Thomas Zuchtriegel, Head of AR/VR Process, Data & Technology for Audi Business Innovation. “You really want to touch it, and that’s what we were looking for at the time.”
Previously, the team had needed to pre-bake lighting and shadows each time the underlying engineering, marketing, and product data changed, which—according to Lorenz Schweiger, who handles VR Strategy for Audi Business Innovation—was very often. “With Unreal Engine we managed to solve this problem because the engine delivers, out of the box, such a good quality and such a good lighting and shadowing system that those pre-baking workflows were no longer needed,” he says.
Another factor that made Unreal Engine a clear choice for Mackevision was Audi’s need to get full access to the source code and material libraries, as Stephan Baier, Vice President of XR Technologies at Mackevision explains. “We initially understood the platform approach Audi was aiming for,” he says. He cites the ability for them to hand over the source code to Audi as a key benefit of using Unreal Engine.
As well as enabling Audi to create new assets themselves and share them within the Volkswagen group, this also helps the company to stay ahead of the of the curve. “If you don’t own the IP and if you don’t have the control, you’re always dependent,” says Zuchtriegel. “We don’t want to have a system which is state-of-the-art in 2018. The system has to be state-of-the-art in 2020.”
What might that system look like? For Thomas Orenz, who’s responsible for Audi Visualization Engine, Digital Content & Virtual Reality at Audi AG, the dream is a completely virtual car, including every function that the customer could be offered, even down to the audio system. He wants customers “to play with, to interact with, to be fully immersed,” in all aspects of the car. He sees Unreal Engine as part of that future. “What I think Unreal gives us is the same visual fidelity we are reaching for,” he says. “It keeps the quality as high as possible.”
By January 2019, Audi had rolled out the Unreal Engine powered retail experience to over 1,000 dealerships.
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