Tech Trend Focus 2024: Real-Time 3D Graphics
This is the time of year when tech publications and writers pour forth with opinions about technology trends for the coming year. As AI and cybersecurity take top billing by most tech pundits, we want to give some attention to other technologies that are trending, impacting multiple industries and providing exciting career opportunities. One such technology that has emerged from narrow specialization to widespread adoption is real-time 3D graphics.
Real-time 3D graphics refers to the generation and rendering of three-dimensional visual content in real time, which means the graphics are computed and displayed instantly as the viewer interacts with the environment or as the content changes. This technology is widely used in various applications, including video games, simulations, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and architectural visualization.
Real-time 3D graphics and the evolution of gaming engines for virtual production
The evolution of video game engines for virtual production represents a significant convergence of the entertainment and technology industries. Virtual production refers to the use of real-time computer graphics and technologies to create and enhance the production process of movies, TV shows and other forms of visual content. Video game engines have played a central role in this evolution due to their ability to render high-quality, interactive 3D environments in real time.
Example: Unreal is a game engine developed by Epic Games (opens in a new window) . Beyond its use in PC game development, Unreal has been adopted most notably by the film and television industry. It has become the visualization technology of choice in Hollywood and is the backbone of many real-time 3D rendering and virtual set production environments. It was used to render real-time sets on Disney’s “The Mandalorian.” The Unreal Engine tool set enables collaboration across the full spectrum of the filmmaking process — from preproduction to postproduction.
Benefits of using game engines for virtual production:
- Allows a production team to eliminate guesswork by visualizing complex set designs.
- Makes it easier to plan, imagine or complete sequences in a production.
- Provides tools that are accessible to smaller production teams and independent filmmakers, democratizing virtual production.
- Enables filmmakers to create more immersive, efficient and cost-effective productions.
- Provides AI and machine learning technologies to enhance character animation and facial expressions and even automate certain aspects of scene creation.
How real-time 3D graphics are used in augmented reality (AR)
Augmented reality involves the real-time use of information rendered as text, graphics, audio or other virtual enhancements that are overlaid onto a user’s immediate surroundings. One of the most well-known examples of AR technology is the Pokémon GO app, which allows players to locate and capture Pokémon characters that pop up anywhere in the real world — in the park down the street or in a player’s home.
There are other, more serious AR applications, such as those being used by surgeons to study a 3D projection of a patient’s brain to aid them during surgery or those used by fighter pilots to see a projection of critical flight data on the visor of their helmet. Other examples of how real-time graphics are used in augmented reality include:
- Educational apps: Educational AR apps leverage 3D graphics to provide interactive learning experiences. For example, students can use AR apps to explore 3D models of cells, historical artifacts or celestial bodies in a classroom setting.
- Industrial maintenance guides: In industrial settings, AR is used to overlay 3D schematics, instructions and visual cues onto machinery and equipment. Maintenance technicians can then follow step-by-step guides for repairs.
- Product design: Designers and engineers can use AR to create prototypes to visualize 3D renderings of products. AR can also assist and enhance design evaluation, validation and testing, and in quality control and inspection.
The demand for real-time 3D skills
Demand for real-time 3D graphics skills is outpacing overall job market growth as more industries strive to provide customers with immersive experiences. According to Laval Virtual (opens in a new window) , “3D has become an indispensable skill in many business fields. This is the case in architecture and construction, civil engineering, mechanical and electrical engineering, graphics and interior design.” A much-referenced 2019 report by Epic Games and Burning Glass Technology (opens in a new window) states, “The use of real-time rendering 3D software is growing exponentially, with demand for these skills increasing 601% faster than the job market overall.”
In a 2022 poll conducted for Unreal Engine (opens in a new window) by Forrester, “85% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that real-time technology is very important to the future of their company, while 82% share the same level of conviction that the metaverse will expand how they interact with customers.”
In our next Tech Trend Focus 2024 post, we will look at the increasing importance of sustainable technology and why the demand for related skills will grow during 2024 as countries and corporations continue to work to reduce their carbon emissions.
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