The keynote at this week's Vision Summit 2017, a two-day event put together by the Unity team in beautiful Hollywood, California, revealed a few new features coming to the Unity platform. They also previewed some of the beta features that are currently available for those less scared of the occasional hiccup.
Vision Summit 2017, set in the gorgeous Loews Hollywood Hotel from May 1–2, brought developers of every facet of augmented, mixed, and virtual reality together from all over the world to talk, attend breakout sessions, and simply put our heads together. A few glitches aside, the event was done really well and was an incredibly enjoyable experience.
Of course, with an event like this, it all starts with a keynote — and Vision Summit 2017 was no different. One message that the Unity team reverberated throughout the keynote was that XR is "Really, almost, really, almost here." And while Unity CEO John Riccitiello had a message designed to temper expectations, for now, he did add that "it's not going to be something like the size of the game industry or the size of the music industry — it's going to be the size of everything."
Tony Parisi, Unity's Global Head of VR/AR, presented the upcoming version of Unity — Unity 2017 — calling it "the foundation of XR." With Natalie Grant, Senior Product Marketer for VR/AR and Film, showed off a new set of features that allow Unity to take 360-degree videos and not only add animated rendered CG elements to them, but also interactive elements that bring a whole new level of interaction to what is currently a passive activity.
These features are currently available in the beta version of Unity 2017.
Brandon Bray, Principal Group Manager from Microsoft, seemed to echo Parisi's assertions when he announced that "91% of Hololens applications are made with Unity." He then said that all members of the audience would be receiving the new Acer Mixed Reality headsets this summer for free.
The Google Tango sensor, while not in many devices yet, promises to add a good deal of AR functionality to the devices that do support it. On stage at the Vision Summit keynote, Nathan Martz, Product Manager from Google, announced that native Tango integration would be part of the upcoming Unity 2017.2 later this year.
Along with that announcement came the revelation of a smarter workflow and faster iteration inside Unity with the Instant Preview coming in May, along with the Daydream renderer, an optimized renderer for Daydream applications. Also announced was Daydream Elements, a collection of modular application examples that give developers a head start on their next project.
Vuforia's President Jay Wright followed Martz, showing off a new feature for Tango-enabled devices — Vuforia Smart Terrain. Using the Tango sensor with Smart Terrain, app developers can add dynamic interaction to the user's environment.
The Vuforia team then turned the Vision Summit stage into a tabletop by using props like game cards that were scaled up many times which showed the scalability of the Tango processor and the new "Advanced" Smart Terrain. They then announced that the game the audience just witnessed would be the sample app that came with the new Vuforia integration into Unity 2017.2 later this year.
There is no doubt that Unity understands the importance of next reality technologies. Much like they have done for console and mobile platforms before, they and are not only supporting XR but aiming to create a platform that democratizes the entire creation process, be it for games or 3D-based applications.
Aside from the above mentioned new features, the keynote showcased many great looking applications from every area of XR and even a special appearance from esteemed ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and author Richard Dawkins. You can watch the entire keynote on YouTube.
Do these new features get your blood flowing? What do you feel Unity is missing to help the XR development community? Let us know in the comments below.