Unity and Autodesk bring gaming technology to construction

Unity Technologies, a $3bn (£2.35bn) US games software developer, has launched its first product for the construction sector.

The San Francisco-based company says its new product, Unity Reflect, enables anyone with an input into the design and construction of a building to make design decisions in real time across multiple design models – and for all involved to review decisions collaboratively.

By integrating with Autodesk’s Revit, users can one-click-import BIM/CAD data sources from any designers and contractors working on the same project and create a single interactive rendering which is accessible from any device.

Tim McDonough, general manager of industrial for Unity, says his company’s expertise in 3D real-time gaming led to architects and building consultancies inquiring whether Unity could help improve their BIM activities. “We hadn’t imagined our technology might have these applications but we said we’d look into it and set up a team for the design and construction sector,” said McDonough.

Last November, this development led to a tie-up with Autodesk, which has helped Unity develop a product which delivers seamless one-click technology for multiple users on multiple devices that it claims is unique to the sector.

Using a plug-in, users can export BIM data natively from Autodesk’s Revit collaborative real-time 3D programme, making the BIM data more easily accessible to any user on any device.

With Unity Reflect, design changes made in Revit will automatically sync across any device in real-time from mobile to desktop to virtual reality to augmented reality. Changes made in Revit, such as relocating a door, adding windows or adjusting materials, are automatically reflected in Unity Reflect in real-time.

“The power of BIM is just not accessible to most users,” says McDonough. “Because you need specialist knowledge and very serious machines to make it run, people fall back to using PDF tools. People tell us, they don’t want to be software developers, they want to be architects. Unity Reflect lets them do that. When data flows in in real-time, they can now visualise all the data – that’s the real value. Then they can do what they want with the design.”

Unity says a number of engineering and design companies in the US and Europe have signed up for Unity Reflect. Pricing has not been announced yet but Unity says it will be “accessible”.

John Riccitiello, chief executive officer of Unity Technologies, said: “Together with Autodesk, we are unlocking the value of BIM data by putting it directly in the hands of any AEC professional to explore design options, solve complex engineering issues, and accelerate construction projects through real-time immersive experiences.”

Andrew Anagnost, Autodesk president and CEO, said: “Our collaboration with Unity is important because visualisation has become a vital part of the design process, particularly in the AEC industry where time is money. Real-time, immersive experiences are becoming the norm, and this integration with Autodesk Revit cuts down on dead time between revisions and meetings, which is critical to giving our shared customers a competitive edge.”

The integration of Revit is part of a broader collaboration between Unity and Autodesk to ensure full data interoperability between many Autodesk products and Unity.

Unity is the creator of the world’s most widely used real-time 3D development platform. Games and experiences made with Unity have reached 3 billion devices worldwide and were installed more than 28 billion times in the last 12 months. Unity has helped power over 25 platforms including Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Gameroom (Facebook), SteamVR (PC & Mac), Oculus, PSVR, Gear VR, HoloLens, ARKit (Apple) and ARCore (Google).

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