Unity for Product Development: Real Value or Just a Game?

How can Unity be used in product development? We break it down for you in today’s video.

If you’ve heard of Unity before, it’s most likely within the context of gaming. Unity is this platform on which the majority of modern games are built, games for Xbox, PlayStation, desktop games, and even tablet and smartphone games. This is because the platform utilizes 3D, making it widely used in the gaming development industry. However, Unity also comes with new applications for product development. First, we are going to explore what these capabilities are and then talk about the applications of this technology.

At a high level, Unity lets you create experiences in product development and then add interactivity. For example, if you have the 3D model, you can add interactivity to it and then publish it out to a variety of formats and different platforms on which it can be consumed. The model, the layer of interactivity, and the formating are the three major steps for experience creation

3D models can be brought in from almost any source and are compatible with many tools out on the market. Many organizations that are already modeling in 3D, whether that be mechanical, electrical, etc., can incorporate these settings into a model.

Next, we take a look at interactivity. Within Unity itself, realtime rendering is readily available. Interactivity can be added in the form of placing buttons on the 3D object that lets you move or change it. The program also uses several different physics engines, though these physics engines are not at the level of engineering simulation that functions at high fidelity. However, they’re good in terms of predicting the physical performance of a product at the gross level.

Beyond that, there are other possibilities with interactivity. It can be integrated into a 1D system simulation, with systems engineering, and with model software development. This is all the hardware, software, and model in the loop where you can connect software interactions with a 1D system simulation of the mechanical aspects of your product that can be running in tandem. This is a good way to validate the software and it will actually give you the logical control over the system that you want.  Now you can connect your model to the interactive part, push a button, and you can see if it gives you the control you want in the  3D environment that you have.

Last, Unity lets you connect to an IoT platform and feed it IoT data. For example, perhaps you are getting sensor data off of a product in the real world. You can then connect the data into your 3D model in Unity, publish it in a variety of different formats, and see the data interacting with the model. The model mimics the behavior of the product in the real world, which is highly akin to how a digital twin would operate. You can also connect it to other tools like Simulink, Wolfram, or anything that has a functional mock-up interface connection.

These are the capabilities at a wide scale. You can get the 3D model, add interactivity, and publish it out to different formats. That includes the traditional app on a desktop that will mimic the behavior of the model and let you interact with it. It also includes virtual reality and augmented reality formats. Those are the three areas of capability.

Moving on to applications, let us start nearly 10 years ago when we first started talking about the virtual prototype. The idea was to get a complete and holistic view on the performance of your product virtually before you build it physically. This application is similar, except it adds another layer and you can get it out to virtual and augmented reality platforms.

Think about this as the next generation of holistic, complete, and virtual prototypes in a new medium that you can consume or place in virtual reality, augmented reality, or other mediums.

The second application falls under training and work instructions. This interactivity can be created and published, sent out to be used as the training environment or the work instruction environment for servicing a product, manufacturing a product, or assembling a product. This training based on visual communication with the added bonus of interactivity. A trainee could enter a session and push that button that turns on the radio in this virtual environment where you’re sitting in a car. Or they could push the button and the assembly line starts to move and parts start coming down the line. This new way of training is compelling and has shown to be far more effective in teaching employees complex tasks.

Finally, we have operation and service. As we explained in a previous example, perhaps there is a product gathering information remotely and sending IoT sensor data into a digital twin that mimics the product’s behaviors. From this, we now have the digital twin and a new UI to interact with that digital twin.

Though Unity is often associated with gaming, it’s clear that the software is very useful for product development. There are not many platforms or tools that can give you this form of functionality. We recommend that anyone interested in the applications mentioned above consider utilizing Unity. It has proven to be the next generation in providing a digital prototype that’s holistic, providing immersive work instructions and training, providing interactive 3D models, providing strong visual communication, or providing ongoing service and operations for a digital twin.

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