Can Game Engines Help Digital Twins Visualize Data Better?
In April 2022, Amazon launched IOT Twinmaker, which would let companies create digital twins of their physical assets and update them in the real world. With digital twin technology set to reach an estimated $48.2 billion from $3.1 billion in 2020 across all industries, digital twin technology is expected to be widely implemented to minimize future losses in the post-Covid-19 period.
“As more companies turn to digital twins in the coming months to replicate physical assets, they’ll need a strong software foundation and the right tools to assemble, process and envision their simulated world,” said Hart.
Digital twins have been used to design and manage physical assets in manufacturing, aerospace, automotive and industrial industries. Hart believes that game engines expand on the capabilities of digital twins by introducing graphical elements and data modeling based on real-world physics in real-time. “This visualization allows for a truly immersive digital twin experience combining data and visualization,” said Hart
“Game engines allow a true-to-life virtual creation of the physical world and can incorporate either modeled test data or real-time data from IoT sensors and devices,” said Hart. “For example, a 1:1 digital twin replica of Wuyi Square Station in Changsha, the capital city of central China’s Hunan province, was created using Epic’s Unreal game engine.”
“This digital twin is connected in real-time to IoT sensors in the transit station, which can help model changes and impact on passenger flow control using artificial intelligence,” added Hart.
Epic’s Unreal Engine and Unity’s Engine are two key game technologies being used today,” says Hart. “They can be used as-is or customized to add new capabilities and custom physics modeling to form the foundation of the digital twin being created.”
Hart believes game engine tech is the perfect solution for enhancing data-rich simulations.
“Game engines with digital twins can be deployed at every level, from designers, artists and mechanical or infrastructure engineers to project managers, executives and marketing teams,” said Hart. “In some instances, this also applies to customers: Audi uses game engine-backed digital twins to showcase new vehicles to customers and corporate executives.”
Hart believes two main reasons why utilizing game technology to visualize data allows companies to do more in simulated worlds.
“The first is the programmatic ability of the game engines to incorporate dynamic, real-world physics, which allows for faster iteration of mechanical designs,” said Hart. “The second is that game engines allow for a wider audience of consumption of the digital twin which affords marketing teams, executives and customers the chance to see the vision in a graphical, interactive view.”
To put this into perspective, imagine an engineer designing a new water pump system to supply water to a town center.
“They can create a digital twin of the water pump using game engine technology which adheres to real-world physics,” said Hart. “A digital twin based on game engine technology of the entire city center can then be created with added components such as restrooms, dishwashers in restaurants, hotels, water coolers, etc., and then programmed to put virtual demand on the pump system.”
Hart says you could even allow users to walk in the digital twin of the city center and turn various water appliances on and off. This virtual action in a real-world scenario would generate pump demand data that could be analyzed to determine the flow rates required for the new pump system’s ability to handle it.
In any physical design production pipeline, there are a number of steps of testing to simulate the impact and conditions of the real world. “But those steps are time-consuming and expensive, so pairing game engine technology with the digital twin technology enables out-in-the-wild testing that’s done virtually, said Hart. “True-to-life digital twins using game engine technology significantly reduce that production pipeline cycle.”
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