Theia Interactive Optim 1.2 has launched which adds a host of new tools to Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, including a ready-to-use template that allows for real-time interaction within existing VR projects.
When it comes to VR and AR experiences, it looks to many like the Unreal engine has become the front runner in the race to gain market traction amongst the professional markets of architectural and design/engineering.
The fact that it’s comprehensive, backed up with industry focused tools (such as Datasmith for repurposing CAD geometry into a VR/AR efficiency form) and the fact that the cost of entry is zero, makes it very appealing to many – never mind the fact that it’s being driven by forces much larger outside of the professional realm (such as the games industry).
But with that attractiveness comes a few issues. Perhaps one of the biggest is that while the Unreal toolset is comprehensive, it’s also built to be general purpose – the tools you use to build virtual world for exploration are the same you use to build an interactive sales tool for a car manufacturer.
This is where a company like Theia comes in: The company’s background is in building a wide range of virtual or augmented experiences for a pretty impressive roster of clients – from the Hard Rock group of hotels to the renovation of Boston’s Logan airport, to trade show AR experiences.
Along the way, the team has built up a set of working knowledge of Unreal that very few could match. It has also faced up to some of the most complex challenges that teams working with the toolset might in both the product design and architectural space, from the challenges of handling complex data to building in multi-site collaboration into its experiences.
What the news this week is that Theia is taking much of that knowledge and the tools it has built to solve some of these most pressing challenges and making them available to those that might also be able to take advantage of them.
It’s wrapping these up into an offering called Optim. This is a subscription service that provides several things alongside Unreal.
Firstly, there’s a plug-in set of tools that sit inside the Unreal editor and provide several key functions, including a lightbuild scheduler (set an exact time to start your static light build to avoid disrupting other networked PCs), clustered merging (which automatically merges objects within a scene, keeping meshes in tight groups for easy culling), selection filters (using name, vertex count or applied material) as well as automated LODs (Levels of Detail) allowing you to select any number of meshes in your viewport and immediately apply Smart LODs without scrolling through endless menus.
All of the workflow enhancers are made available in a set of quickly accessible commands directly inside Unreal.
Secondly, it also provides a set of VR ready and ready-to-use templates that allow for real-time interaction within existing VR projects.
Accessing the new VR functionality is a case of selecting the new multi-user collaborative template available via Theia Interactive’s Optim plug-in in Unreal. Team members working from anywhere in the world will then be represented within the project as individual avatars, and have the option to explore all angles of an existing digital scene using a new live VR camera.
Users can capture info and even receive final marketing imagery, while communicating with others in real-time through a built-in voice chat – or meet up to talk in a pre-made virtual boardroom – all of which can, of course, be customised to your needs.
There are also a set of tools, referred to as the Optim Importer, which handles those common tasks when bringing data into Unreal from Datasmith, such as replacing and consolidating material definitions, previewing, preview levels of scene complexity and potential performance, as well as merging objects into clusters and finding duplicates (by turning them into instances).
“Unreal Engine is an incredibly powerful tool, and by simplifying the way users can implement features like multi-user connectivity, we hope more people will embrace it,” said Theia Interactive president Bill Fishkin.
“We created Optim as a way to help improve our own workflows, so we deeply understand the best ways to utilize game engines because we do it ourselves.”
Theia Interactive Optim is available to try at no cost with a two-week free trial. After that, Optim is available in three versions: Starter, Pro and Enterprise.
Starter license holders will have access to the complete Optim Toolkit, and purchase options include monthly subscriptions with an introductory rate of $12/month, or annual plans for $108/year.
The Pro version includes everything from the Starter package, plus the VR Collaboration Template.
The introductory rate for a monthly Pro subscription is $90/month, while annual plans cost $900/year.
Enterprise options include both the Starter and Pro packages, the Importer and industry-specific templates, tailored to individual markets. Pricing is available upon request, including floating licenses.