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Unity Technologies brings Nvidia RTX ray-tracing 3D tech to automotive design

The two companies show how gaming tech can enhance car design with an extremely realistic 3D render of the 2019 BMW 8 Series coupe.

Unity Technologies

The latest Nvidia RTX graphics technology that makes the most cutting-edge PC games look unbelievably realistic will soon help shape the future of automotive design. A new partnership between Unity Technologies and Nvidia, announced Monday, will create an enhanced software platform that brings real-time ray-tracing technology and high-resolution 3D rendering to automotive designers, manufacturers and advertisers.

Though best known for the gaming applications of its 3D development software, Unity's technology also powers automotive design, development and manufacturing software. Nvidia is also, perhaps, best known for its gaming conquests -- having debuted its ray-tracing technologies last year under the hood of the new RTX 20 Series of gaming-focused graphics cards -- and has its own deeply established roots in the world of automotive technology development.

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To demonstrate, Unity presented an extremely realistic, ray-traced render of the 2019 BMW 8 Series Coupe.

Unity Technologies

Unity is integrating support for Nvidia's RTX hardware -- which mimics the behavior and physical properties of light when creating 3D graphics in real time -- into its own 3D development and rendering software. This allows for dynamic rendering of shadows, reflections and blurring for an extremely realistic image. This High Definition Render Pipeline software will be available to developers starting Monday.

The partnership will bring these real-time ray-tracing capabilities to automakers via Unity's platform, granting vehicle designers, engineers and marketing departments the ability to create extremely photorealistic 3D still and video renderings of their vehicles. 

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The RTX rendered cockpit showcases how light reflects, distorts, blurs and refracts on the 8 Series' varied surfaces.

Unity Technologies

That means automakers will be able to create high-fidelity ads and promotional materials, but it also opens up the use of ray-tracing software to aid in the design of future vehicles. Engineers and designers can use the platform to render their creations in a variety of highly accurate real-world conditions, checking realistic reflections and materials in real time for design flaws even before an actual, costly prototype is ever produced.

To demonstrate what's possible, Unity and Nvidia have partnered with BMW to produce a ray-traced digital render of the new 2019 BMW 8 Series coupe, replicating a live video shoot of the real car under dramatic lighting conditions, challenging viewers to try and tell the difference between the two side-by-side sets of images. The results, which include tricky shots of the BMW's LED headlamps and taillights, are pretty convincing.

A downloadable version of the BMW 8 Series preview will be available from Unity on April 4. The demo will allow users running Nvidia's RTX GPU hardware on their PCs to explore the 3D vehicle model in live-rendered detail, customizing the paint and cabin colors, opening the doors and interior compartments, and adjusting the lighting at a resolution of 1080p at 30 fps. The demo will even allow users to toggle various RTX effects, enabling reflections, shadows and more for a closer look at how the ray-traced sausage is made.

Unity's announcement comes as part of a wave of automotive-related news flowing out of Nvidia's 2019 GPU Technology Conference in San Jose this week. Stay tuned to our continued coverage for more details.