Pixel Streaming and the Growth of 3D outside of Gaming
Last week, we took part in a demonstration called Project Anywhere at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (IITSEC), the world's largest modeling, simulation and training event. Built in Epic's Unreal Engine, and hosted on Azure, this demo provides real-time access to an interactive "digital twin" 3D model of the entire Earth through the Cesium platform streaming global data as 3D Tiles, rendered on NVIDIA GPUs.
While the demo itself was exclusively available for IITSEC virtual attendees, there were three key takeaways that we should all be very excited about – that hint at the future of cloud development – and the important role that gaming will play in that future.
First, this demo was rendered entirely in the cloud, which means it can be accessed from any device with a modern web browser, including mobile phones or low-end PCs. This is called Pixel Streaming, and I predict it's going to revolutionize a broad swath of industries by making cutting-edge interactive 3D experiences available to anyone. An architect, for example, can create a virtual walkthrough of a new building, and know that the client will be able to experience it in all its glory – without requiring a powerful gaming PC.
Second, the demo involved a massive amount of data. But thanks to the power of the cloud, you don't have to wait for all that data to be downloaded! Instead of bringing data to the user, now we can bring the user to the data. Designers no longer need to be limited in the amount of data required for an optimal user experience – you can build world-scale applications and again, expose them via any device – even mobile devices with thin pipes and limited local storage. Imagine a city repair crew trying to locate the source of a water leak while out in the field – now you can explore an interactive model of an entire city's infrastructure, in 3D, from your phone.
Finally, by keeping the data in the cloud, we make it easier for multiple users to interact with and modify that data at the same time. This sort of player-to-player interactivity is nothing new in game playing, but it's very new in game production. By enabling an entire team to experience and create content together in real-time, we can dramatically accelerate all sorts of production pipelines. What Office 365 has done for collaborative document editing, we should nowsoon see happening in level product design or and film production through the power of the cloud and features such as Unreal Engine multi-user editing.
What the Project Anywhere demo has shown us is how gaming technology is driving innovation beyond gaming. As data sets are getting bigger and visualization technology is getting more powerful, moving to the cloud makes things accessible to everyone. Hosting and simulating in the cloud means any device can view demos like Project Anywhere. It's a technology I'll be watching closely, and I'll share more proofs-of-concept as they're created.