Preparing for the future of architecture with Collab Viewer Template

Here at Epic Games, we are constantly striving to produce Unreal Engine tools that will assist a variety of industries in achieving their goals for visualization.

The sphere of architecture is no exception—many archviz companies embraced Unreal Engine years ago, but had to develop their own custom tools for in-engine collaboration with designers and clients. The need for these tools has expanded as the fields of engineering, construction, real estate, and digital twins have begun to use Unreal Engine for their own interactive presentations.

After listening to feedback from industry professionals, Epic Games developed the Collab Viewer Templates for Unreal Engine. Although the templates were initially designed to provide a first step towards hosting multi-user experiences in Unreal Engine, Epic has continued to add functionality to them since their release two years ago.

The current release includes two versions—one customized for architecture, the other for OEM/Manufacturing—and features ready-made controls so you and others can measure, scale, and section the design, and also move objects, travel around the scene, and even annotate in real time.

Architectural template features

The Collab Viewer Template includes these architectural tools, which can be utilized, adjusted, or replicated in other projects:
  • Measurement tool - Measure spaces or architectural elements for all participants to see, and add or remove measurement markers as needed.
  • Annotation tool - Draw, paint, or add text notes for clients or fellow designers.
  • Section tool - Cut away a section of an architectural element for clearer visibility of some part of the design.
  • Transform tool - Move objects around to rearrange the space, or out of the way completely.
  • Scale tool - Scale architectural elements for quick visual adjustments.
  • Orbit and navigation tools - Navigate through and around the space to see it from every angle.
  • Datasmith at Runtime - Import a .udatasmith file while running your built .exe application. Available only for single-player applications.

Virtual Collaboration in action

While the template is straightforward in what it provides, we're seeing some pretty amazing uses from Unreal Engine users around exploring virtual spaces. Spaceform, for example, is using virtual collaboration tools they built in Unreal Engine to help the Korean Football Association present and share its design for a state-of-the-art training complex outside of Seoul, South Korea to its public. Users can explore the masterplan complete with cars and fans, and even a virtual version of the national team practicing on the field.

Jacobs made use of the technology to create the Virtual Event Space, an experience-ready digital room where users can meet, collaborate, learn, and interact. Hosts can decorate the room with charts, diagrams, or even clickable banners that play additional media, including live chats. The space also comes with easy navigation tools for attendees. Conferences, exhibitions, town halls, workshops, and architectural review are among the potential uses for the Virtual Event Space, which is accessible on PC, tablet, or smartphone.

The Collab template provides a great starting point for customers to start to create their own collaboration spaces around their projects similar to the projects above.

Starting a collaborative project

The process for creating a collaborative project with the Collab Viewer Template is fairly straightforward:
  1. Create a new Unreal Engine project from the template, or import the template content into your existing project.
  2. Use the Unreal Editor to package your project to an executable file (.exe), and share the packaged file with your review partners.
  3. Launch the package on one computer, and start it up in server mode to start the review session.
  4. Colleagues or review partners on the same network can launch their own copy of the packaged file on their own computer, and join the server session to begin collaborating.

Now you can all use the Collab Viewer Template features, and each person in the session can see each others’ measurements, annotations, and so on. For a more detailed list of steps, see the Collab Template Viewer Quick Start guide.

While you can use the Collab Viewer Template for straightforward design review with a handful of architects and clients, coupling the template with other Unreal Engine functionalities can bring you so much more. For example, the Pixel Streaming feature in Unreal Engine gives you the ability to host virtual design review sessions for participants outside your domain, wherever they are. You can also seek the help of a cloud partner—such as Eagle 3D Streaming or PureWeb—to help you build a back end to suit any scale or project.

Preparing for the future of archviz

With the metaverse continuing to evolve, collaboration and user engagement will become even more of a core need for AEC. Learning to take advantage of the Collab Viewer Template features can help position you and your company for the changing world of interactivity, and help you wow your clients with experiences rather than presentations.

Epic plans to continue to add features to the Collab Viewer Template as the architectural community comes up with new and innovative ways to use Unreal Engine for interactive experiences.

The Collab Viewer Template is included as a standard feature in Unreal Engine. To learn how to use it, you can check out our Quick Start guide, or read about all the template’s features in the Unreal Engine documentation. Create a customized template to share with your team, and let the creativity begin.

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