Unreal Engine may power the metaverse 

Tools in the powerful and popular video game engine may underpin the metaverse.

Epic Games may be most casually famous for Fortnite, the widely popular battle royale game-slash-Ariana Grande heaven simulator.

But the company is also behind the Unreal Engine, a set of tools and assets developers can use to create video games. The announcement of the game engine’s newest iteration — Unreal Engine 5 — has people thinking beyond video games, to movies and the metaverse.

Multiple new tools in Unreal Engine 5 look primed to assist in metaverse development.

“I think Unreal Engine 5 is a great step forward for the metaverse and AR/VR, especially when you consider that a lot of what the company has been building is thinking about the metaverse and AR/VR,” Moor Insights & Strategy principal analyst Anshel Sag told IEEE Spectrum.

Epic Games may be most casually famous for Fortnite, but the company is also behind the Unreal Engine, a set of tools and assets developers can use to create video games.

Welcome to the (virtual) world of tomorrow: Unreal Engine 5 focuses on creating incredibly realistic, detailed open worlds, CNET reported — close kin to a metaverse. (Or, one could argue, the same thing sans buzzwords.) The suite of tools they’ve designed to do so could lead to more immersive, better realized virtual worlds.

Such a world was on display in a demo the company released as a Matrix tie-in. The Matrix Awakens features the film’s actors and a massive, highly detailed city, which Epic plans to release for developers to actually use, TIME reported

The city, stripped of its Matrix branding, will include 20,000 realistic humans created using Epic’s MetaHuman, and it’s detailed down to the brick.

The city will serve as a demonstration of Unreal Engine 5’s ability to easily create detailed, large-scale worlds like the kind a metaverse would demand.

While that all sounds awesome, you may be thinking: do I have a machine capable of running this stuff? 

Multiple new tools in Unreal Engine 5 look primed to assist in metaverse development.

Epic vice president of engineering Nick Penwarden told CNET that premium consoles and souped up PCs will reap the biggest advances of the engine, but a feature called World Partition may help democratize the metaverse.

The tool takes those expansive, horsepower-demanding maps and breaks them down into smaller packages, allowing them to be run on less powerful — and less expensive — machines.

Behind the shadowy scenes: Two more features may eventually find their way into metaverse development: Nanite and Lumen. Nanite can alter how many polygons are in objects in real time, helping to optimize what you see, while Lumen handles hyper-realistic lighting effects, Spectrum explained.

“In my opinion, Nanite could be a vital component to helping VR experiences expand in scope for high-end VR,” Alistaire Hume, co-founder of metaverse developer Axon Park, told Spectrum.

That being said, Lumen and Nanite aren’t currently supported in VR, which may limit their appeal for metaverse making at the moment.

But you’ve already been invited into a digital world created by Unreal Engine 5, and likely didn’t know it — the engine is behind the scenes (so to speak) of The Mandalorian’s digital sets.

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