V-Ray for Unreal Unifies Real-Time and Ray-Traced VR for CAD and BIM
Jeffrey Heimgartner posted on April 06, 2018 |

Virtual reality (VR) continues to become an evermore present technology in our lives. While the technology seems fairly recent to most, its beginning can be traced all the way back to the 1800s, when photography was becoming a practical application. It was in 1838 that the first stereoscope was invented, using twin mirrors to project a single image. That invention eventually became the View-Master that was patented in 1939 and is still being produced today.

VR really began to take shape in the 1950s and 1960s, thank to Morton Heilig, who is now often referred to as the “father of virtual reality.” Morton was a philosopher, filmmaker and inventor who applied his cinematography experience to design, and then went on to patent the Sensorama Stimulator in 1962. That machine used visual images, sounds, fans, scents and vibrations to give users the sensation of riding a motorcycle down the streets of Brooklyn. Albeit big and bulky, the Sensorama Stimulator was ahead of its time. Unfortunately, Morton was unable to obtain the financial backing necessary to develop his invention further. 

The term “virtual reality” was finally coined in the mid-1980s, when Jaron Lanier, founder of VPL Research, began to develop the gear, including goggles and gloves, needed to experience what he called “virtual reality.”

Despite its history, though, VR has been more prevalent in the entertainment and gaming industry than in the computer-aided drafting (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM) industries. That is all starting to change, however. Recently, Epic Games released its Unreal Studio, which enables real-time visualization for CAD and BIM. NVIDIA has introduced real-time ray tracing with NVIDIA RTX. The Bulgarian-based Chaos Group is the most recent company to bring VR to CAD and BIM users with the launch of its beta of V-Ray for Unreal.

V-Ray is a computer-generated image rendering software application developed by Chaos Group. The company’s webpage notes that the technology helps artists and designers create photorealistic imagery and animation for design, television and feature films, and that its physically based rendering and simulation software is used daily by top design studios, architectural firms, advertising agencies and visual effects companies worldwide.

One of the most beneficial elements to the availability of V-Ray for Unreal Engine will be its ease of use for CAD and BIM users. Those who are familiar with software such as 3ds Max and Maya will be able use their existing knowledge and data in Unreal to generate photorealistic and entirely interactive assets. 

“Now, with V-Ray for Unreal, users can not only build assets in a familiar way, but they can bring them into real-time without losing the ability to render out ray-traced versions later. It’s a big change,” stated Simeon Balabanov, V-Ray for Unreal product manager at Chaos Group.

“As geometry is imported from programs like SOLIDWORKS, designers will be able to apply V-Ray lighting and materials to their assets, preparing them for a photorealistic result.”

Immersive VR capabilities with V-Ray for Unreal. (Image courtesy of Chaos Group.)
Immersive VR capabilities with V-Ray for Unreal. (Image courtesy of Chaos Group.)

Because the software utilizes workflows that are already familiar to CAD and BIM users, bringing a V-Ray scene into Unreal should be a fairly simple process. Users just need to create a scene in the same way they would using V-Ray for 3ds Max, Maya and SketchUp. Then, they just need to export their V-Ray scene from their host application and import it using V-Ray for Unreal. No more needing to be a game engine expert.

In addition, upon importing a scene, V-Ray for Unreal will automatically convert materials and lights into real-time equivalents for Unreal Engine (UE) workflows. All the while, the original materials from V-Ray for 3ds Max, Maya and SketchUp will remain connected to the real-time versions and are retrieved once users are ready to render.

Gaming industry pun intended, this is a game changer! This improvement allows CAD and BIM users to take full advantage of the VR capabilities in the Unreal Editor. Using this shared and familiar workflow means users can now build amazing real-time experiences and ray traced renders all from a single, shared workflow using V-Ray for Unreal.

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