GEOG 497
3D Modeling and Virtual Reality

The Unity3D Game Engine


The Unity3D Game Engine

Unity is a game engine developed by Unity Technologies. Development started over a decade ago and the initial version of Unity was released in 2005. Unity has experienced rapid growth, in particular over the last few years, and is undoubtedly the most popular game engine out there. According to the Unity website, 50% of mobiles games, and 60% of AR/VR content are made with unity. The company has over 2000 employees and more than 3 billion devices worldwide are running unity [1]. There have been several major releases of Unity over the years with new minor versions being released on a regular basis. The current major release is Unity 2019 with the latest stable version being version 2019.1.10 at the time of this writing. In 2010, Unity Technologies launched the Unity Asset Store, an online marketplace where developers can obtain and sell assets for their Unity projects including tools and extensions, scripts, artwork, audio resource, etc. (Unity Asset Store). Today there exists many side products and activities around the Unity platform. For instance, Unity offers its own Certification Program (Unity Certification) to interested individuals and has its own VR/AR division called Unity Labs (Unity Labs).

One of Unity’s main advantages is that it is cross-platform both during development time and deployment. Unity applications can be deployed for many platforms including Windows, macOS, Linux, and different mobile operating systems. That means not only can you choose on which operating system you want to create your 3D application but once it has been created, it can be deployed to a large variety of devices. For instance, you can build stand-alone programs for the common desktop PC operating systems (Windows, macOS, Linux, etc.) as well as versions for different mobile phones (e.g., Android-based phones and iPhones). Of course, the differences in performance and hardware resources between a PC and a mobile phone need to be considered, but there is support for this in Unity as well. In addition, Unity has been a front-runner when it comes to building VR applications and supports or provides extensions for a large variety of consumer-level VR devices such as the Google Cardboard, Gear VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and other mainstream HMDs. Three of the most popular VR development plugins (a series of libraries and pre-made game objects that facilitate access to HDMs and enable developers to program different functionalities) for unity are SteamVR (by Valve corporation), OVR (also known as Oculus integration, by Oculus), and VRTK (a community-based plugin by Sysdia solutions).

While its origin is in the gaming and entertainment industry, Unity is being used to develop interactive 3D software in many other application areas including:

  • simulation (Universe Sandbox);
  • educational/training simulations (Surgical Anatomy of the liver demo);
  • design, architecture, and planning;
  • virtual cities and tours;
  • data visualization (NOAA);
  • history and cultural heritage;
  • cognitive science research;
  • and last but not least geography and GIS.

More examples can be found at Made with Unity

In this course, we will use Unity to build simple interactive and non-interactive demos around the 3D environmental models we learned to create in the previous lessons. You will also learn how to produce 360° videos from these demos such that these can be watched in 3D using the Google Cardboard. Lastly, you will learn how easy it can be to add physics to different geometrical objects in unity and make them “behave” the way you want.

Assignment (Unity 3D/VR Application Review)

Search the web for a 3D (or VR) application/project that has been built with the help of Unity. The only restriction is that it is not one of the projects linked in the list above and not a computer game. Then write a 1-page review describing the application/project itself and what you could figure out how Unity has been used in the project. Reflect on the reasons why the developers have chosen Unity for their project. Make sure you include a link to the project's web page in your report.

Grading Rubric

Grading Rubric
Criteria Full Credit Half Credit No Credit Possible Points
URL is provided, the application/project uses Unity, is not already listed on this page, and is not a game. 2 pts 1 pts 0 pts 2
The report clearly describes the purpose of the application/project and the application itself. 3 pts 1.5 pts 0 pts 3
The report contains thoughtful reflections on the reasons why Unity has been chosen by the developers. 3 pts 1.5 pts 0 pts 3
The report is of the correct length, grammatically correct, typo-free, and cited where necessary. 2 pts 1 pts 0 pts 2

Total Points: 10


[1] Unity (accessed on July 16, 2019)