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Game

Unity lays off 4 percent of its workforce to realign its resources

Unity has laid off hundreds of employees in its offices across the globe, according to Kotaku. The video game software development company known for its popular game engine has reportedly let around 300 to 400 staffers go so far. Layoffs are still ongoing, sources said, so those numbers may be higher by the time the company is done. Unity has confirmed to Engadget that it’s “realigning some of [its] resources,” which has led to the dismissal of approximately 4 percent of its entire workforce. That’s consistent with the report that it has let around 300 people go, since its LinkedIn page lists 8,048 employees.

The company told Engadget:

“As part of a continued planning process where we regularly assess our resourcing levels against our company priorities, we decided to realign some of our resources to better drive focus and support our long-term growth. This resulted in some hard decisions that impacted approximately 4% of all Unity workforce. We are grateful for the contributions of those leaving Unity and we are supporting them through this difficult transition.”

While the mass dismissal affects Unity’s entire workforce, Kotaku said it’s mostly concentrated on its AI and engineering divisions. On Blind, the anonymous messaging board used by workers in the tech industry, posters claiming to be former Unity employees said they were asked to hop on a Zoom call with a manager and an HR personnel. They lost access to their company Slack and email and had to surrender their laptops within 48 hours, but they were apparently given 30 days to find a new role within the company. According to Kotaku, giving them 30 days to find a new role wouldn’t help because the company has instituted a hiring freeze, but Unity told us that’s not true at all. 

One of the publication’s sources said there’s a lot going on within Unity at the moment, including mismanagement and “strategic pivots at a rapid, unpredictable rate.” Whatever the reason is for its reorganization, Unity’s layoffs are just the latest in a string of job cuts across the tech industry. Niantic also recently laid off around 90 employees, or 8 percent of its workforce, to streamline its operations. Meanwhile, Netflix’s latest round of job cuts due to slowing revenue growth had affected 300 staff members. 

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AI

How Unity Simulation Pro and Unity SystemGraph use AI to train systems

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Last week, at its AI Summit, Unity, a platform that aims to enable users to produce real-time 3D content, announced the launch of two new products designed to simplify training complex systems with AI: Unity Simulation Pro, a headless multi-GPU distributed rendering solution, and Unity SystemGraph, a node-based editor extension.

The two products are designed to make it easier for engineers to test and analyze the capabilities of AI systems virtually — that is, without having access to physical hardware.

For instance, Unity Simulation Pro is built to enable developers to use distributed rendering to model and test systems faster than real-time independent of physical hardware, so they can iterate and test at a much higher rate.

“Unity Simulation Pro is purpose=built for building cutting-edge simulation applications. With this product we are enabling a future where we’ll see more developers create and evolve autonomous systems, across different industries, at a quicker, safer, and more cost-effective rate,” said Danny Lange, senior vice president of artificial intelligence at Unity.

Training intelligent robots with AI

The fast, non-hardware-dependent capabilities of Unity Simulation Pro are a key reason why the Allen Institute of AI and Carnegie Mellon University use the solution to help train robots to perform navigation and manipulation tasks.

By using the solution, the researchers managed to accelerate the training process from 200 frames per second (FPS) with one GPU to 5000 FPS with 32 GPUs, according to the university.

“Al2-THOR is a pioneering simulation environment with the most diverse repository of indoor scenes and while it provides highly realistic simulations, this high fidelity is computationally intensive,” said Abhinav `Gupta, associated professor, Carnegie Mellon University. “The headless version of AI2-THOR, which is built on Unity Simulation Pro, enables us to train our models in large clusters. Experiments that used to take weeks to finish, can now finish in just a few days.”

Traditionally, if engineers wanted to test autonomous systems, they had to develop complex simulations with large environments. Unity Simulation Pro provides a faster testing solution that enables developers to create and test autonomous systems at a faster pace.

Node-based editing

Similarly, Unity SystemGraph, is a node-based editor, designed to emulate mechatronics, robotics, and photo sensor systems. Unity designed the tool to reduce the cost of the testing process to enable engineers to mimic sensors, cameras, and physical robots virtually.

“With Unity SystemGraph, engineers can mimic sensors, cameras, and even physical robots in a complex system. Then they can test and train these systems at faster than real-time rates with Unity Simulation Pro, achieving optimized performance levels at tremendous cost and time savings,” said Dave Rhodes, general manager, Digital Twins, Unity.

In the past, according to Unity, Volvo Cars used Unity SystemGraph to perform high-fidelity sensor modeling and to run autonomous driving perception testing, to test the autonomous-driving capabilities of its AI systems.

Ultra-fast rendering

While Unity isn’t the only development platform on the market, competing with other providers like Roblox, Chartboost, and Mobvista, what sets Unity Simulation Pro apart is its use of distributed rendering. Distributed rendering optimizes the amount of GPU resources available to users, so they can render simulations faster than other less-optimized platforms.

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AI

Unity moves robotics design and training to the metaverse

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Unity, the San Francisco-based platform for creating and operating games and other 3D content, on November 10 announced the launch of Unity Simulation Pro and Unity SystemGraph to improve modeling, testing, and training complex systems through AI.

With robotics usage in supply chains and manufacturing increasing, such software is critical to ensuring efficient and safe operations.

Danny Lange, senior vice president of artificial intelligence for Unity, told VentureBeat via email that the Unity SystemGraph uses a node-based approach to model the complex logic typically found in electrical and mechanical systems. “This makes it easier for roboticists and engineers to model small systems, and allows grouping those into larger, more complex ones — enabling them to prototype systems, test and analyze their behavior, and make optimal design decisions without requiring access to the actual hardware,” said Lange.

Unity’s execution engine, Unity Simulation Pro, offers headless rendering — eliminating the need to project each image to a screen and thus increasing simulation efficiency by up to 50% and lowering costs, the company said.

Use cases for robotics

“The Unity Simulation Pro is the only product built from the ground up to deliver distributed rendering, enabling multiple graphics processing units (GPUs) to render the same Unity project or simulation environment simultaneously, either locally or in the private cloud,” the company said. This means multiple robots with tens, hundreds, or even thousands of sensors can be simulated faster than real time on Unity today.

According to Lange, users in markets like robotics, autonomous driving, drones, agriculture technology, and more are building simulations containing environments, sensors, and models with million-square-foot warehouses, dozens of robots, and hundreds of sensors. With these simulations, they can test software against realistic virtual worlds, teach and train robot operators, or try physical integrations before real-world implementation. This is all faster, more cost-effective, and safer, taking place in the metaverse.

“A more specific use case would be using Unity Simulation Pro to investigate collaborative mapping and mission planning for robotic systems in indoor and outdoor environments,” Lange said. He added that some users have built a simulated 4,000 square-foot building sitting within a larger forested area and are attempting to identify ways to map the environment using a combination of drones, off-road mobile robots, and walking robots. The company reports it has been working to enable creators to build and model the sensors and systems of mechatronic systems to run in simulations.

A major application of Unity SystemGraph is how it enables those looking into building simulations with a physically accurate camera, lidar models, and SensorSDK to take advantage of SystemGraph’s library of ready-to-use models and easily configure them to their specific cases.

Customers can now simulate at scale, iterate quickly, and test more to drive insights at a fraction of current simulation costs, Unity says. The company adds that customers like Volvo Cars, Allen Institute of AI, and Carnegie Mellon University are already seeing results.

While there are several companies that have built simulators targeted especially at AI applications like robotics or synthetic data generation, Unity claims that the ease of use of its authoring tools makes it stand out above its rivals, including top competitors like Roblox, Aarki, Chartboost, MathWorks, and Mobvista. Lange says this is evident in the size of Unity’s existing user base of over 1.5 million creators using its editor tools.

Unity says its technology is aimed at impacting the industrial metaverse, where organizations continue to push the envelope on cutting-edge simulations.

“As these simulations grow in complexity in terms of the size of the environment, the number of sensors used in that environment, or the number of avatars operating in that environment, the need for our product increases. Our distributed rendering feature, which is unique to Unity Simulation Pro, enables you to leverage the increasing amount of GPU compute resources available to customers, in the cloud or on-premise networks, to render this simulation faster than real time. This is not possible with many open source rendering technologies or even the base Unity product — all of which will render at less than 50% real time for these scenarios,” Lange said.

The future of AI-powered  technologies

Moving into 2022, Unity says it expects to see a steep increase in the adoption of AI-powered technologies, with two key adoption motivators. “On one side, companies like Unity will continue to deliver products that help lower the barrier to entry and help increase adoption by wider ranges of customers. This is combined with the decreasing cost of compute, sensors, and other hardware components,” Lange said. “Then on the customer adoption side, the key trends that will drive adoption are broader labor shortages and the demand for more operational efficiencies — all of which have the effect of accelerating the economics that drive the adoption of these technologies on both fronts.”

Unity is doubling down on building purpose-built products for its simulation users, enabling them to mimic the real world by simulating environments with various sensors, multiple avatars, and agents for significant performance gains with lower costs. The company says this will help its customers to take the first step into the industrial metaverse.

Unity will showcase the Unity Simulation Pro and Unity SystemGraph through in-depth sessions at the forthcoming Unity AI Summit on November 18, 2021.

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Categories
Game

Unity Acquires Weta, and It’s a Huge Deal for the Metaverse

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Unity, the 3D development platform used to create video games, has entered an agreement to acquire Weta Digital, the visual effects studio behind films like Avatar, Lord of the Rings, and more. The $1.625 billion purchase is a massive move with serious metaverse implications.

The two companies have entered a “definitive agreement,” which will see Unity acquiring Weta’s “tools, pipeline, technology, and engineering talent.” Unity will gain proprietary graphics and VFX tools that have been used to make some of Hollywood’s biggest movies, and it plans to make them available to creators down the line.

While Unity will gain the tools, Weta’s VFX teams will continue to operate as a standalone entity called WetaFX. Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson will retain majority ownership of WetaFX alongside CEO Prem Akkaraju.

A press release about the deal sheds some light on Unity’s long-term goal here: Shaping the “future of the metaverse.” The metaverse has been a hot topic in recent weeks thanks to Facebook — or Meta, as it’s now known. The company changed its name to emphasize its focus on building the metaverse, a more lived-in digital space. While Meta fired a very public shot, the concept of the metaverse has already existed for years in the video game world. Companies like Epic Games have led the charge, using games like Fortnite to get players used to spending more time in a virtual space with its own currency, events, and more.

Unity’s power-play is another key example of how serious the video game world is about creating the metaverse. The acquisition will give Unity users access to more powerful 3D tools that can be used to make more sophisticated video games, but the potential stretches far beyond entertainment. Weta’s tools could be used to create powerful digital experiences that accelerate metaverse efforts by giving creators the power to shape it.

Unity and Weta have only entered an agreement, so the final acquisition still needs to go through. That means it’ll be a while until we see the full effects of the deal. But it’s a major move that’s likely going to impact video games, movies, and just about every digital space.

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Tech News

This bundle includes a year of PlayStation Plus and 10 Unity game creation courses, all for under $70

TLDR: The Unity Game Developer Bundle serves up 10 courses for building awesome video games…plus you can a year of PlayStation Plus for inspiration.

Sometimes, we all need a little push. If you’re a video game fan, you’ve probably always considered learning some of the skills needed to create cool games of your own. Of course, when it actually came time to really dig in to do the work and get that training…well heck, it’s time for another game, right?

We get it. Playing games is usually more fun than working to create them. But if you need a little carrot-and-stick incentive to buckle down and learn, then The Unity Game Developer Bundle ft. a one year subscription to PlayStation Plus ($69.99, over 90 percent off, from TNW Deals) might just finally do the trick.

Of course, the attention-grabber here is 12 months of access to the PlayStation Plus service, the online hub for any and all PlayStation fans to get the most out of their games. In addition to exclusive discounts and offers, free cloud storage, and at least two free game downloads a month just for being a member, PlayStation Plus is where all of the PlayStation multiplayer gaming happens. 

With memberships, gamers can head in and take on or team-up with more than 47 million other PlayStation fans at all the biggest and hottest new games, including one of June’s free games, the space dogfight triumph Star Wars: Squadrons.

But…you can’t have dessert before you’ve had the meal. This collection also features 10 courses with nearly 100 hours of training in the real art of gaming, using the industry-leading Unity game engine to create fan games of your own while you learn the building blocks of the game development trade.

Whether it’s creating a first person shooter game or a third-person action adventure saga, this coursework charts the way. This training helps explain the basics of crafting animations, game environment, attack mechanics, and more, even the role that using AI can play in creating smarter, more unpredictable game opponents for your players.

Along the way, most of the valuable lessons are reinforced by actually creating a game around that lesson, including everything from a starship or tank battle game to a ninja survival game, to even a multiplayer game with an open warfare Battle Royale-style format to push players to their limits.

And somehow…you’re learning something new the whole way.

All of the training (not to mention the gameplay) in The Unity Game Developer Bundle ft. PlayStation Plus would normally cost more than $2,000, but right now, it’s all part of this package now for just $69.99, a savings of over 90 percent off.

Prices are subject to change.

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Categories
Tech News

Learn to code through making games with this Unity training bundle

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Alexander Kovalev/Pexels

TLDR: The 2021 Complete Learn to Code by Making Games in Unity Bundle is a multi-course plan for learning the fundamentals of game creation by building your own cool games.

Imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery. Even for the most creative of people, the way to learn how to build something new is to start by trying to recreate something that has already been done before.

So if you want to learn how to build video games, you could learn a lot by building your own version of an already proven success. So how about starting your career as a game creator by making your own Legend of Zelda?

That’s one of the avenues into the gamer lifestyle to be found in The 2021 Complete Learn to Code by Making Games in Unity Bundle ($39.99, over 90 percent off, from TNW Deals).  

The collection includes eight courses and more than 140 hours of training in how to build games in the Unity game engine, one of the most powerful game creation platforms ever created. And this is training done the best possible way — by actually building your own games.

Build The Legend of Zenda Game in Unity and Blender kicks off the instruction right, as an introduction to game building that comes through making a clone of one of the most popular games of all time. Students build the game from scratch, designing the game and all of its functionality in Unity as they learn to code in C# by recreating the classic game levels. It’s a coding bootcamp that ends with its own classic game.

From there, new game challenges teach new Unity skills. Students make a Mega Dude Action Shooter Game in Unity using Pixel Art. They engage with artificial intelligence by building a tank game as well as a starship game. There’s even training in building a multiplayer battle royale style game.

Meanwhile, further courses help refine the work, including using machine learning with Python to control non-player characters in the game, and how AI can lead to even smoother gameplay.

Each course in The 2021 Complete Learn to Code by Making Games in Unity Bundle is a $200 value, but as part of this package, users can get all this game creation training for about $5 per course, only $39.99.

Prices are subject to change.

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Tech News

Unity is driving over half of today’s top mobile games. So learn what’s under the Unity hood

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SCREEN POST/Unsplash

TLDR: The 2021 Premium Unity Game Developer Certification Bundle includes 17 courses to help new game creators use the Unity game engine to produce incredible games.

While the GameStop stock story has used up almost all the available bandwidth for talking about the intersection of video games and Wall Street lately, there’s been another such story in recent months that hasn’t received nearly the fanfare.

Since joining the ranks of publicly traded companies in October, Unity Technologies has seen its value nearly double. That probably shouldn’t come as a huge shock considering Unity and its game engine’s place in the industry. Currently, 94 of the top 100 global game development companies are Unity customers — and more than half of the top 1,000 mobile games in Apple’s App Store and Google Play were generated on the Unity platform.

As the place where huge swathes of today’s video game creation begins, The 2021 Premium Unity Game Developer Certification Bundle ($44.99, over 90 percent off, from TNW Deals) is where young game builders can get familiar with the tools and take advantage of the capabilities of the world’s most powerful game creation engine.

The massive 17-course collection is where a newbie learns all about Unity, from how to create the most amazing game experiences to the nitty gritty of monetization, distribution and the other mechanics of conceiving and delivering your video game world to players everywhere.

For anyone who’s ever entertained the idea of creating their own games, courses like Intro to Mobile Game Development and The Secret to Smoother Gameplay with Unity AI can help give that dream some form.

From basic tools and commands, other courses get into more specific areas of world building, including everything from Unity’s drag-and-drop system for creating advanced effects to generating 3D game environments that leap off the screen.

But if you want to learn anything, you’ve got to jump in and do it yourself. That’s where a host of courses explain portions of game creation as you actually create a game, like learning to code by making an air hockey game or understanding how to use artificial intelligence to make a tank game and a space travel game.

Once you’re finished these hands-on projects and created a game of your own, there’s also coursework in how it can make you some money too. By helping developers incorporate ads into their games as well as utilize in-app purchases, creators can start generating income to help make their games even bigger and better.

The courses in the 2021 Premium Unity Game Developer Certification Bundle usually retail for $3,400, but right now, the complete package is on sale for a fraction of that total, just $44.99.

Prices are subject to change.

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Categories
AI

How Unity is positioning itself to democratize the metaverse

“Right now we’re just at the cusp of getting to the point where a lot of technologies, a lot of concepts, are coming together, and will enable a revolution,” said Dr. Danny Lange, senior VP of AI at Unity, during the “Tools for the Metaverse” panel at the GamesBeat “Into the Metaverse” event.

Lange and Timoni West, VP of tools for Unity, joined author Charlie Fink, to talk about Unity’s role in supporting the metaverses that are beginning to spring up, growing in sophistication all the time.

Digital twins, or digital representations of the physical world, such as Niantic’s PokemonGo, or the way Google Maps allows you to visualize the world, have the potential to be metaverses, Lange says.

“At Unity we’re making very significant investments in the concept of digital twins,” he said. “Digital twins could really be a foundational effort in the Metaverse concept. It’s a first step, where we can interact in a digital world. We can learn from it and impact it before we get into the real world. There are a lot of applications, a lot of opportunities there.”

A giant metaverse is arguably the end goal, where users can move seamlessly between worlds, from Roblox’s platform to Snap Inc.’s augmented reality platform, to the PokemonGo world to the VR metaverse of Oculus, but there are still some significant sticking points, West said, a question that goes all the way across the board, from standards to hardware.

“When it comes to 3D interactivity, you not only have the tool set and then also the output to the platform, but you also have different devices, with completely different hardware, that don’t necessarily play nicely together,” he said. “That’s simply something we have to seriously take into account when we think about how to build out these worlds people can go to. It’s not just a matter now of sharing the same syntax or setting up standards. It’s also a matter of making sure that if you do create these worlds — that regardless of where that person is and what device they’re on, they can participate effectively.”

The standardization that exists shares a common thread — they’re worlds that are built with a plugin into Unity, Fink noted. You can bring in new resources and upload them into Altspace or VRChat, because they’re using some common building blocks underneath them. And that’s essential to the democratization of XR and the effort to get more people building it and contributing to, if not a holistic metaverse, at least some of its smaller parts.

One of Unity’s core values is solving the hard problems for their users, West said. And one of the foundational problems today that developers run into is differences in machine learning stacks and computer vision and what the platform gives you.

“Because that’s such a meaty problem, that tends to be what we’ve focused on, even on the tooling side — that’s been Unity’s sweet spot for a long time,” he said. “But then there’s that next layer of people who want visual scripting, who want simplified creation tools. Our hope is that we’re just pushing up the stack, so that we hit more and more people who just want to make an experience and want to bring what’s in their head to life.”

“This is deep in our DNA, to democratize development,” Lange said. “That’s the core of what we’re doing at Unity. We have 1.5 million developers on our platform, and we drive a lot of those developers to the XR space as well.”

AI helps lower the barrier to entry for creating these applications, he added. They develop AI that solves behavioral challenges. You can train your system, characters, objects, to interact with you rather than hand-code it. Unity has a physics engine that emulates gravity and inertia and collision that takes the guesswork out of determining how objects should interact.

They also work on AI for object recognition, so that in a mixed reality application, your application will know what kind of objects it’s looking at and be able to infer some behavior or physical properties from those objects.

“For us it’s about bringing advanced technology to the developers so that they can create much more powerful applications,” he said. “That’s our mission.”

Last year the company launched MARS, or the Mixed and Augmented Reality Studio, which, he said, is the most powerful tool on the market for any user to create mixed reality experiences that allow users to add digital apps that react intelligently to the virtual space.

“There’s a lot of work ahead of us,” said Lange, “but the thing we can learn from the world wide web is that democratization is very important to enable full penetration of the technology.”

“It has to be easy to develop,” he added. “It has to be easy to use. It has to be easy to create content and experiences. It also has to be easy for people to make a living from. I think that Unity is uniquely positioned, if you look at our presence in the market today and where we’re taking gaming, especially for small and independent studios and our support for over 20 different platforms — it’s in our DNA, in our blood, to continue this and bring it into the Metaverse as well.”


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