Friday, January 25, 2008

Unity & ZeroFractal: Driving Real Estate To Serious Games Technology

Serious Games For Visualizing Architecture

Via: Unity - Visualizing Architecture

Zerofractal uses Unity to deliver its architecture visualization product to clients.

Zerofractal is a fast growing and innovative ONE STOP Design & Technology consulting agency specialized in visual and marketing solutions.

Their strength lies in their flexibility, experience, and quickness in providing sophisticated design services in the fields of Film & Video, Internet & Multimedia, Architectural Visualization and Graphic Design.
Zerofractal Corporation's dynamic team of multi-talented designers has been delivering high-end solutions to a broad range of businesses and organizations for many years.

Alejandro Gonzales is the co-founder and the R&D director for Zerofractal Animation Studios and Zerofractal Interactive

While his original background is that of an architect, he has been involved in a wide range of projects different to architecture, from visual design, 3D animation, video, virtual tours, web development and R&D.

Zerofractal has a strong set of visual communication solutions for Real Estate projects, which includes renderings, virtual tours, design for print, web and now virtual reality.

Fractal Reality

Their latest R&D project is called Fractal Reality - an interactive visual simulator for Real Estate project promotion.

The tool is basically conceived as a turnkey, ready to use console or kiosk, which allows the potential buyers to visit the project as if it was built. It gives a new high impact experience to the end user by offering the ability to use a game pad to move as desired. This means that the user can visit the unit at their own pace and focus on whatever they want.

They developed different approaches for different kind of spaces. From virtual scale models for exteriors, to panoramic solutions for small spaces, to fully interactive free movement scenarios, which they call "walk around", they can all be delivered with Fractal Reality.

What's so special about their solution is that they managed to recreate with a very high level of realism the natural lighting and finishes their customers expect from us.

Besides their normal 3D pipeline apps they only needed to use Unity. This is a very important point since it made it very easy and cost effective to integrate. Actually they came to Unity after about 2 to 3 years of trying out several 3D solutions, building proof of concepts, researching and finally, what is more difficult, preparing their clients for this new generation of marketing tools.

Driving real estate developers to gaming technology can be very challenging.

The reception on Fractal Reality has been fantastic. They believe this is a nice complement to other marketing tools because it enhances the overall experience and gets the most out of technology by captivating the audience with an innovative tool.

While traditionally virtual tours were based on continuous "walk though" camera sequences that traveled along the project, "walk around" simulations are becoming a natural evolution to this concept. They believe that "walkarounds" are a better way to get a clear idea of the unit's spatiality by implementing a non-linear approach.

This does not mean that Virtual tours will disappear; it means that they have to evolve as well.

Actually this is already happening. Virtual tours are evolving into commercial videos, which aim at showing the project's highlights and identity in a span of 3 to 5 minutes. The focus is not depicting the actual spatiality but rendering a clear message of the project's lifestyle. This requires more pre-and post-production but has become a very appealing area of expertise.

"From the first time we thought about real-time and researching on software tools available we constantly found that they did not deliver exactly what we needed, which was a flexible, easy to use editor which allowed our designers to eventually ensemble projects very quickly without having to do much programming", says Gonzales."Unity offered all of the flexibility we needed."

"To make it possible for non-programmers to use the tool, we worked hard on developing a set of proprietary Unity additions or prefabs which actually let our CG artists put together Fractal Reality applications on the fly without any programming knowledge. We created a menu system, in which the designer chooses a number of levels, an environment, a project logo and "voila". For each interactivity method we implemented a prefab. This made it very nice to integrate to our process."

According to Gonzales, the best part of the Unity experience: "to make it short, easy to use, easy to extend, and seamless integration to the production pipeline".