Unity Industry Launches, Showing Ongoing Industrial XR Growth and the Importance of Content Creation Toolsets and Supporting Platforms

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By Eric Abbruzzese | 2Q 2023 | IN-6939

Unity, known mostly for its game development engine, is expanding its existing enterprise offerings with Unity Industry, which includes professional services, plugins, and content creation tools tailored to industrial markets and real-time content. In a similar vein, other staple Extended Reality (XR) companies have expanded offerings as well, including Microsoft, NVIDIA, and RealWear.

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Unity Strengthens Enterprise Efforts with Industry


In early April 2023, Unity released its Unity Industry solution, a selection of industry-optimized solutions covering content optimization for Extended Reality (XR), plugins for common file systems like Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Building Information Modeling (BIM), professional services, novel XR content authoring, and even server solutions enabling on-premises implementations. The company has been steadily expanding beyond its pure game engine/authoring roots into the enterprise sector, recognizing the growing need for content optimization and creation toolsets for XR content in the enterprise space.

Unity is not alone in its industrial focus and efforts. Recently, Microsoft expanded its Dynamics 365 Guides platform with improved annotations and Teams integration for HoloLens users. NVIDIA continues to push its Omniverse platform and recently partnered with Magic Leap to enhance digital twin implementations for customers. RealWear, a leader in industrial assisted reality devices, also expanded its software offerings with an application marketplace and developer toolkit.

Industrial Needs Align with XR Market Efforts


Content optimization and novel content creation have been pillars of successful XR growth for years. Faced with a potentially daunting rollout of smart glasses and/or Virtual Reality (VR) Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs), content needs were at first forgotten in favor of new hardware excitement, but that need for content immediately becomes known when content is lacking. In the case of many enterprises, companies already have content that can be used in Augmented Reality (AR) and VR, but need some help adapting it to an XR system—Three-Dimensional (3D) models and CAD files are a great example of this, with digital content already existing and perfectly suited for XR, but just needing to be optimized to work in XR. Some XR platform providers have focused entirely on this optimization aspect, but that pure focus has shifted to include other common XR solution offerings like content authoring and use case enablement.

As companies mature their XR integrations, the desire for novel content grows. With the general knowledge level of XR growing, companies are often beginning their XR efforts at a more mature level as well. This is where content creation toolsets play a pivotal role. Not only is pure capability important, such as what kinds of content can be created at all, but so is flexibility, integration, iteration potential, time for creation, developer skillset needs, and more. Hiring a suite of XR developers to create content is rarely an option for a company integrating XR; traditionally, partnering with a third-party content creation studio would enable that novel creation. Increasingly, companies want to have in-house creation capabilities to reduce time for creation and ensure content is well suited for intended use cases and/or environments.

This focus on industrial markets is not a surprise. Verticals like manufacturing, utilities, and automotive were early adopters of AR as smart glasses became viable, and now many are increasing VR spending on high-fidelity visualization and interactive content needs—training is most successful, thus far. Industrial needs for XR are similar to broader enterprise needs, but are more stringent with more impactful results. Downtime is costly for any company, but for an automotive Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), for instance, it can cost tens of thousands of dollars a minute in production, scrap, etc. With stakes high, industrial operators are increasingly looking toward digitizing operations, with XR an important component.

Unity’s Industry efforts span both optimization and creation. Covering both facets positions Unity favorably as an end-to-end solution provider that also happens to leverage one of the most popular real-time and object-based development ecosystems today. As content demands grow for real-time 3D content, companies look toward proven solutions first, especially those with existing strong developer support and communities.

More Is Better—to a Point 


When looking for content and service partners, striking that balance between end-to-end in-house capabilities and partnership capabilities remains paramount. Enterprise XR, especially in industrial markets, continues to favor tailored solutions over à la carte and packaged solutions—every company is different and custom solutions impart confidence in an investment. Having a portfolio that covers all possibilities is the best way to garner attention, but a poor solution for every need is often beaten by a more narrowly-focused, but proven competitor.

This idea of surrounding a “hero” product with increasing capabilities and scope is popular in XR. NVIDIA is leveraging its Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) and data center prowess alongside Omniverse; Microsoft is providing HoloLens with more features through its existing services; and RealWear is adding capability to its smart glasses with an expanding cloud platform. This go-to-market strategy is well suited for a continually shifting XR market where customers have highly-variable demands. By always strengthening the core offerings through additions, rather than launching an entirely novel product, a company can scale with its customers without weakening focus and losing new customer opportunities.

For XR, the idea of doing “more” has traditionally focused on increasing visual fidelity and interaction capability, as seen with Mixed Reality (MR) and VR expansion over assisted reality. Real-time 3D is a focus for Unity and its Industry push, but it is important to recognize where the value of real-time 3D content truly lies, versus a simpler XR solution. Companies care about Return on Investment (ROI) first and foremost, and ROI is often realized quickly with any kind of XR solution. Costs, both time and money, for real-time content must be justified outside of core use cases. For instance, VR training is a known high-value solution, but development costs at scale for VR training are not yet fully understood. Compared to a mobile AR remote assistance solution, higher cost and time to value for VR training may be a turnoff, but it is an unfair comparison across two different use cases. Companies targeting industrial markets must lead with ROI metrics tied to use cases, not with broad portfolio capabilities. Hooking customers with a best-in-class solution and then scaling that customer to other offerings has a much higher success rate than competing across the board in a convoluted market.



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