Volvo will become the newest automaker to use Epic Games’ Unreal Engine’s graphical prowess. The Swedish manufacturer has announced that it will collaborate with the creator of Fortnite to include “photorealistic visualization” in its next series of electric vehicles.
The “human-machine interface” (HMI), which is another way of describing how car owners engage with their vehicle’s software in the setting of vehicle ownership, will be at the heart of the Volvo/Epic relationship. Volvo claims that Epic will assist in the development of a platform upon which automaker’s engineers can create software that will enhance the HMI while preserving the high levels of safety on which Volvo has built its reputation.
“This technology allows us to generate dynamic, incredibly high-quality images that we can layer in information, make realistic representations as needed, and all of that,” said Thomas Stovicek, Volvo Cars’ head of user experience. “It’s basically about developing the next iteration of HMI for our customers.”
According to Stovicek, one of the most important aspects of the new collaboration will be safety. The brand has earned a reputation for safety and unique designs over the years, and today’s announcement is aimed to reinforce that. Volvo hopes to employ the Unreal Engine to show what the vehicle’s external sensors, such as camera, radar, and, soon, lidar, observe outside the vehicle to drivers without being “overwhelming,” he said.
Other aspects of the game, such as navigation and battery life, as well as how that information is presented, such as light, color, and motion visuals, will benefit from the partnership with Epic Gamers, according to Stovicek.
Epic’s principal tool for creating realistic 3D graphics is the Unreal Engine, which debuted in the 1998 first-person shooter Unreal. Since then, it has been adopted by numerous sectors, most prominently the film and television industries, and has been employed in a range of gaming genres.
Epic Games is particularly interested in the automobile business, owing to the fact that vehicles are easier to represent realistically than humans. (Which also reflects the popularity and widespread availability of racing games.) Epic recently announced that it would collaborate with GMC to provide HMI software for the Hummer EV pickup vehicle due out in 2022.
Epic, on the other hand, has been increasingly interested in the automobile business. The theory is straightforward: current cars are essentially software-driven, with several onboard processors relying on touchscreens as well as digital interfaces to operate infotainment systems. And, since Unreal Engine is a fantastic platform for creating software, why not put it in cars?
“With the new hardware that’s coming into automobiles, it became really appealing to think of the vehicle as an extra platform which we should recognize,” said Heiko Wenczel, the head of Epic Games’ Detroit lab, “from an HMI viewpoint, from an engagement perspective, from what game features can actually contribute to the user experiences within the car.”
Volvo and Epic declined to identify which vehicles are going to be the first to use Unreal Engine software, or when these features will be rolled out to the rest of the Volvo fleet.