Unity; For More Than Just Games

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Unity has a reputation as the go-to game engine for indie game development. It offers great licensing and a plethora of learning materials It also comes batteries included, with a vast array of features that can take almost any idea from paper to reality with less back-end work and reinventing-the-wheel development than many other platforms. What you may not know is that Unity is — for good reason — being used for applications outside of gaming. The creators of Unity have been pushing the platform, release after release, to be the go-to tool for any applications requiring interactive graphics and sound. Here are a handful of ways Unity is being used for non-game applications:

Cross-platform App Development

Unity apps are usually coded in C# or javascript and built to run on a target platform from a very long list of choices. This allows a Unity project to go cross-platform with minimal effort and code rewriting. The chances are good that you've used mobile apps made with Unity without realizing it. There are a large number of sound generator apps on the marketplace; quite a few of them use Unity. The WRLD3D API is available for Unity, allowing a Unity app to easily add support for 3D maps using device positioning. The WRLD3D website showcases a number of locations that have adapted this tech to work as mobile-based tour guides for cities and even individual buildings like museums. In my personal work, I have published three utility style apps for use with tabletop board games using Unity. I was able to focus on creating my apps quickly, and afterward deploy to Android, IOS, Mac OS, PC, and Linux.

Data Visualization

A quick online search of Unity data visualization will reveal many projects created by researchers and professionals for rendering data in 3D using Unity to reveal new patterns and insights. A project called Minutely graphically shows weather patterns over 3D-rendered cities. Unity Studio's offers services for visualizing data, especially when taking it to the next step: rendering in VR simulations to help others better understand data and navigate through it. Sometimes a simple graph doesn't get the point across like seeing the data move around and populate in real time. If you've seen a video of data points moving around in an animated fashion, there's a good chance it was made with Unity.

3D Editors

Since Unity makes it so easy to manipulate 3D objects and space, it's no surprise that many tools have been created in Unity that allow you to create other assets. A good example is the successful 3D modeling program Asset Forge. Asset Forge is an application created in Unity that makes it easy for non-3D artists to create geometric models by snapping together ready-made pieces. Another such application comes from Google, * Tilt Brush. Tilt Brush is a tool made in Unity that allows a user to paint 3D brush strokes in virtual reality. Many artist-uploaded examples can be viewed on Google Poly.

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I could go on with examples from other categories, but I think you get the point. If you have the need for an interactive experience with graphics and you want to get going quick with a battle-tested platform, Unity deserves a look. Expect to see even more applications using Unity for non-game projects in the future. Unity has only gotten more and more capable, and the community around it has grown tremendously in the last few years.