Most software developers I know are or have been gamers, and I am no exception. The number of hours I’ve spent hammering the keyboard trying to beat the next Foe on the list is… well… probably embarrassingly many. In a way I am glad I do not know the actual answer to be honest. And here I am, trying my best to encourage, convince, order my own kids to move away from that gaming chair and go out to meet friends, climb a tree, play football and what not. If they had the slightest clue of how much time I’ve spent gaming throughout the years, they would absolutely use it against me for their own benefit. Hopefully, they are not reading this blog…

My first gaming console was a Philips Videopac G7000, also known as the Magnavox or Philips Odyssey 2.

I still remember my sister and me unwrapping the Christmas-gift. I thought it was a typewriter when I first saw it. And I also remember that for some strange reason we had to go to bed very early for the weeks that followed, only to hear strange pling-plong noises from the living room downstairs. I guess there were more “kids” in the house than just Heidi and me. And I cannot forget lying in bed wondering how I could one day make games and build consoles even better than the Philips G7000. This is how it all started for me – young Frode became a gamer and a software engineer thanks to Philips. And for those who are too shy to ask: Yes, I still have that console!

There is a lot of competition in the gaming industry. Probably dead fun, though, if you can find the right position and project to work on. But most likely quite stressful and it can be a high risk area to go into. Studios come and go. And you can’t be sure of keeping your job after the next big title has gone gold. So, after a lot of consideration, I ended up in another industry segment. But I chose cautiously: I do work with gaming related technologies. When people ask me what I do at work I answer more often than not: “I create games for the engineering industry”. A lot of the technology we develop here @ Ceetron derives from gaming, like OpenGL, VR, AR and so on.

I regularly go to conferences around the world to get my hands on the latest-and-greatest tech, to learn about new trends and to pick brains. Last year, in May 2019, I went to the Mixed Reality Dev Days at Microsoft campus in Redmond. The main goal was to get hands-on experience with the upcoming HoloLens2.

One thing I noticed was that Microsoft was promoting Unity as ‘the’ way to get data onto the HoloLens. Unity is a cross-platform game engine. Well, they started out as a game engine, but it seems like they are doing their best to expand into other industries as well. It makes sense, really. I mean, they have some valuable core tech, and the commercial game engine market seems to be a bit saturated.

Unity was promoting a company called PiXYZ and their add-on to get CAD data into Unity. And I thought: “Hey, we can do that! We have everything we need to do the same thing, but for CAE data…” They have their PiXYZ Studio to preprocess data before import. We have Ceetron Analyzer to do the same thing with most CAE data formats out there. And we have Ceetron Desktop Components that can be used within the Unity Editor. And as such, the Ceetron Labs was on the case.

We were a bit new to Unity, at least from a development point of view, but Unity Technologies was kind enough to help us get started. (Thank you, Oliver@Unity) And it didn’t take long until we could see some nice, familiar colors on the screen. And so, the “Ceetron CAE Plugin for Unity” was born.

Many of our clients create their own Ceetron VTFx files, which now can be imported directly into Unity via this plugin. But why stop there? By using “Ceetron Analyzer” you can post-process most standard CAE file formats out there and pre-process them for Unity.

The import procedure is straightforward, you simply load your data from the “Ceetron -> Import VTFx” menu. A dialog will pop up where you can scale the model and choose what kind of render pipeline and shader setup you want.

And that’s it. The VTFx will now pop up as a new GameObject in Unity with all of its parts and attributes.

Observant readers may notice the use of the Mixed Reality Toolkit (MRTK) in the screenshots above. And it’s no secret that we’ve been playing around with the HoloLens 2 too @Ceetron Labs. Stay tuned, a blog on the subject will follow soon.

Another nice feature of “Ceetron CAE Plugin for Unity” is that the plugin is fully scriptable within the Unity Editor. Basically, the plugin is just leveraging Ceetron Desktop Components to be used from within Unity, which makes it very easy to modify the import to your liking.

The plugin is still in a research-phase, hence the “Ceetron Labs”-tag. And we have not yet decided where we will take this. But it shows great potential for an easy and flexible way of getting your CAE data into Unity. Feel free to contact me if you find this interesting and have some ideas on how this can be tailored for use in your organization.

Oh well, time to get back to creating games.. ehh.. work 😉

– Frode