On the first day of Unity Unite 2018, the main show floor at the Hyderabad International Convention Center is bigger than the previous year because of a merger with the show floor of the Indian Game Developer’s Conference (IGDC) 2018. Unite is taking place over 5 and 6 December, while the IGDC is scheduled for 4 and 5 December. It is the second year that the Unite event has come to India. However, Unity has been actively engaging with Indian developers for years, and used to have a row of booths in previous iterations of the IGDC, then known as the NASSCOM Game Developer’s Conference. Unite 2018 is organised by Unity Technologies, in collaboration with the Government of Telangana.
People start trickling in from 8:00 AM in the morning, when the registrations open. Taking advantage of the thin crowd, fans rush to pose in front of two big typographic installations that say “I <3 Unity”. Later on in the day, taking clean shots next to the logo will become impossible as the crowd swells up.
The annual event is a confluence of creators, developers, artists, startups and students. The central hall is full of booths by various game developers and content creators, with an increasing focus on mobile and XR experiences. Within the conference itself, are two mini-summits, one for industrial applications, and one for animation and VFX. The exam for the Unity Developer Certification is also being held on the first day of Unite 2018.
There are live demos, workshops, panel discussions, talks and a couple of closed door sessions are scheduled throughout the day. Experts and leaders representing Xiaomi, Mindbox, Dell, Autodesk, Deloitte, HolyCow Productions, Hypernova Interactive, Threye, IIT-B, Accenture, Centurion University and Cusmat Technologies are all participating, and that is just day one. There are three “tracks”, or themes for the schedule. The industrial track focuses on non gaming applications of the game engine, covering a wide range of fields from robotics, to XR (AR, VR, MR and anything else), to artificial intelligence applications, to smart glasses for industrial workers. Machine learning capabilities have been incorporated into the game engine itself. Unity is collaborating with Microsoft to bring their open source simulation platform, called AirSim, into Unity.
The games track is focused on game developers. As a part of their mission to “democratize development”, there was an increase focus on small and indie studios. The use of distributed ledger technologies (implementations similar to blockchain), augmented reality, development kits, game art, and optimization are some of the topics covered by the events in the games track.
The third track is all about what animation and computer generated imagery were conceived for in the first place – education. There were two events on the theoretical and practical approaches to making educational games. The main event of the day is the Keynote address, which takes place at 2:00 PM, after a delicious buffet lunch (yes, Biriyani is on the menu).
The keynote speech is the main event for the day, which started off with a highlight reel of all the content created by Indian developers over the year.
The efforts of Unity when it comes to working with the local talent has really shown results. The games and experiences showcased in Unite 2018 is instantly recognizable as being a much better quality than what was showcased last year. As part of his Keynote presentation, Andrew Bowell, Vice President, Product said, “India is special to Unity as it is the fastest growing economy of the world and is in the forefront when it comes to providing engineering and IT services. It is at the tip of the spear in so many areas.”
One of the important points made during the keynote, was the improved machine learning technologies incorporated into the game engine. The way this works is that the agents can learn from the user themselves, and the game can adapt to the expertise level of the user. If the user is good at the game, the enemies are also good. If the user is not that great, the enemies are not that great either. This allows the developers to design and maintain a difficulty curve through the progression of the game, irrespective of the skill level of the player. A video showcased how a machine agent became increasingly close to human levels in navigating a track in a racing game. Mark Schoennagel, Evangelist, Unity Technologies, said “Unity is very proud to lower the barriers of entry and provide Machine Learning to all of you. Unity Machine Learning is being used for all sorts of applications in Research, Training Industrial simulation and even teaching cars how to drive autonomously.”
For developers, these events are where you can get exposed to the expertise and direction you need to make your dream project a success. The talks go into the nitty gritty details – such as how green is the sharpest color you can use for the AMOLED panels in VR head mounted displays because of the arrangement of the pixels, and how gamers who are really engaged to the product will overcome whatever barriers there are to monetisation.
The event ends with a stunning live demonstration of a drone being controlled through an X-Box controller through Unity. Anurag Rana, of Threye Technologies (it is just pronounced as “three”, the y is in negative space), demonstrated the use of an abstraction layer to control a quadcopter. Instead of manually controlling the quadcopter, a user can simply specify operations, such as surveying a particular area, looking in a particular direction, or navigating from point A to point B. The machine learning technologies integrated with Unity can take care of the rest, allowing the drones to fly in smooth curves to their destinations. The technology can be used by a single operator to control swarms of drones at the same time. These technologies are in the process of being adopted by the Indian armed forces.
The agenda for day 1 showcased a number of cutting edge technologies, and we just cannot wait for Day 2.