Real-time roundup: the growth of interactive 3D and emerging 2021 trends

Jan 15, 2021 at 11:00 am by Press Release


Last year was huge for real-time technology. From online events like Travis Scott’s virtual concert in Fortnite to new filmmaking techniques, creators continued to harness the power of interactive 3D to transform the way we play, create, and communicate.

Behind the scenes at Epic, this story has been reflected in the numbers. By the end of 2020, nearly half of announced next-gen games were being built in Unreal Engine; the number of film, TV, and animation projects that are using or have used Unreal Engine doubled; and innovation in areas like HMI saw real-time workflows fuel cutting-edge new experiences, such as the digital cockpit in General Motors’ recently announced GMC HUMMER EV and Cadillac LYRIQ.

Incredibly, 2021 is set to be even more exciting. Let’s take a look at some of the bellwether statistics that reveal why.
Games: developing the next generation

Game developers both large and small continued to amaze us with their creativity in 2020. At The Game Awards 2020, titles developed using Unreal Engine were nominated for 17 awards, winning five, and making up over half of the world premieres featured during the main show. These include ARK II, The Callisto Protocol, Back 4 Blood, Just Cause: Mobile, Evil Dead: The Game, and more. At the close of last year, nearly half of announced next-gen titles were being built using Unreal Engine.
Unreal Marketplace: building blocks for creativity

The community’s appetite for real-time projects saw the Unreal Marketplace boom last year, with new content for creators in all categories growing by nearly 50%*. Highlights included ten packs from What Remains of Edith Finch, and two large environments that developers can get for free: an expansive 200-acre urban park and a factory environment.
* Data from period December 2019 to December 2020
Unreal Marketplace: building blocks for creativity

The community’s appetite for real-time projects saw the Unreal Marketplace boom last year, with new content for creators in all categories growing by nearly 50%*. Highlights included ten packs from What Remains of Edith Finch, and two large environments that developers can get for free: an expansive 200-acre urban park and a factory environment.
* Data from period December 2019 to December 2020

What’s on the horizon for 2021

We’re living through a period of extraordinary technological change. In the past few years, we’ve seen huge advances in cloud computing and connectivity, artificial intelligence and automation, and interactive and immersive technology. These are now converging, and we see a number of key trends emerging that are set to define innovation in the year ahead, across industries as diverse as film and TV, games, AEC, and automotive.

Virtual entertainment

The live entertainment industry was forced to adapt last year as in-person restrictions made it impossible to produce live attendance concerts, shows, and other events. This led to a boom in virtual entertainment, with people seeking out online the up-close experiences they couldn’t have in real life.

What’s more, many existing events were given a real-time twist to enhance the viewer experience at home—whether it was the spectacular XR environment for League of Legends Worlds 2020, MLB stadiums filled with virtual fans, or zeitgeisty festivals like Tomorrowland and Burning Man. We predict that this trend is set to persist well into 2021 and beyond, as creators refine virtual entertainment offerings to provide ever-more engaging shared digital experiences.

Virtual product launches

From Balenciaga’s video game debuting its next clothing collection to Ferrari’s first fully digital car launch with a photoreal configurator for the Portofino M, companies increasingly turned to real-time technology to launch new products last year. We anticipate this trend to escalate as more and more brands seek to capitalize on the scale and interactivity virtual product launches afford.
Digital twins
Digital twins are set to revolutionize entire industries, from AEC to automotive and beyond. We’ve already seen digital twins being used in the AEC industry to develop next-generation buildings and smart cities. In 2021, digital twins will be increasingly used for everything from managing renewable energy plants to improving the performance of hardware in the aerospace and defence industries.

Real-time innovation in 2021

With real-time workflows developing apace, one thing is certain—it’s going to be an exciting year for anyone leveraging the power of interactive 3D technology, whatever you’re creating. We can’t wait to celebrate the amazing achievements of our community as the year unfolds!





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