During Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California a couple of months ago the company announced its first proper foray into augmented reality (AR) by unveiling ARKit. A demo was shown on stage that utilised Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4, which was then followed by the studio announcing downloadable support for developers through GitHub. Now Epic Games has released its next iteration of its videogame development software, Unreal Engine 4.17, which now features experimental support for ARKit built in, as well as several virtual reality (VR) improvements.
That on stage demo – if you didn’t see it – was conducted and created by Wingnut AR, a studio founded by acclaimed director Peter Jackson, the man behind The Lord of the Rings. And it’s with Wingnut AR’s help that the ARKit plugin has been possible, all based on the code work by the team. As an experimental build, it allows developers to play around with the new feature set before official support arrives from Apple in iOS 11 later this year.
On the VR front Epic Games has added Spectator Screen support to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, whilst improving on the existing support for PlayStation VR.
“The Spectator Screen is the ‘normal’ output device connected to a VR device, usually a TV or a computer monitor. While one player uses the HMD, other people can observe or interact with the experience,” notes the Unreal Blog. “You can now draw any texture, including render targets or UI, to the Spectator Screen in addition to – or instead of – a view of what is being displayed in VR.”
PlayStation VR users have been able to use their TV screen as a means of local multiplayer since launch, with VR titles like The Playroom VR. Now developers working on Oculus Rift or HTC Vive titles should be able to do something similar, opening up more local gameplay possibilities.
The other big VR addition for studios is VR Mode Camera Previews. Now if a developer selects a camera in a scene, or an Actor that contains a camera like a character, they will get an in-world preview of what that camera sees. This preview can then be pinned and moved around the environment.
Head to the Unreal Engine blog for the entire changelog – which as always is massive. As ever, VRFocus will continue its coverage of Epic Games and Unreal Engine 4, reporting back with the latest updates.