OTOY Looks To Give Developers The Tools To Build Lifelike Real-Time 3D Environments

OTOY Looks To Give Developers The Tools To Build Lifelike Real-Time 3D Environments

Around ten years ago, Jules Urbach was sitting at the table at his mom’s house, coding away, when there was a knock at the door. His mom answered, but the visitor was for him. Directors J.J. Abrams and David Fincher had some questions about a rendering technology Urbach was working on, which had the potential to make movie scenes look much more realistic with shorter load times.

Abrams and Fincher were being prescient. What Urbach was building would go on to be used in films like The Avengers and commercials for Transformers. It also made him enough money so that he could move out of his mom’s place.

Urbach started a company called OTOY, short for Online Toys, in 2009. OTOY specializes in rendering complex 3D environments using cloud-based servers, making it making it easier — and faster — to build scenes for video games and movies. And now, OTOY now also integrates with Unity and Unreal Engine — two of the biggest tools used by game developers in the world.

These kinds of integrations all help companies offload the complex technological aspects of things like rendering games, making it easier to focus on the gameplay and art assets instead. Octane 3, the company’s tool, can export those Unreal Engine and Unity applications directly to the cloud, and they can be easily shared on the web. And those apps can be streamed to virtual reality devices like the Gear VR.

Normally all of this takes a tremendous amount of time to render properly, but Urbach’s goal was to cut that down to a few seconds. He did that by finding a way to transfer the rendering technology to GPUs, increasing the speed at which it worked — and slicing the time required to render those scenes to a fraction of what it used to be. And to do all this, OTOY has raised more than $50 million in financing over the course of its lifetime.

“It’s like photoshop, everyone understands how light in the real world works,” Urbach said. “You don’t need to do tricks or be a visual effects studio to master and get it look real, it looks real — it’s all physics. My goal was to get the tech on the rendering side to be done and ready to where we could take on projects like [Transformers] and do it at a fraction of the cost, because [Octane 3] can render it like a video game.”

Here’s an example of how the technology works: imagine taking a mesh of a forest where a video game character is walking around. To render all the lighting properly — and make the forest look lifelike, especially as a character walks around — normally takes a tremendous amount of time and computing, and is incredibly difficult to do in real time. But the goal of Octane is to essentially make it possible to look at it from all angles and have the lighting, shading and visuals of it looking correctly and lifelike in real-time.

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