Video games are raising the bar for what’s possible for digital experiences, incorporating beautiful design elements like 3D graphics to create detailed images that delight consumers. Automotive HMI designers are trying to push the envelope with their cockpit display graphics, designing similar elements into their instrument clusters, infotainment systems and other car displays. We’ve started to see graphics created with Unity and Unreal Engine, for example, in automotive applications. But car displays aren’t video games—nor should they be treated that way. So how can OEMs deliver these powerful 3D scenes into their next generation HMIs?

Altia is the solution that bridges the gap between gaming software and a production HMI, enabling designers and developers to deliver gaming 3D design elements into their automotive cockpit displays.

Importing the Artist’s Vision

Some premium car brands already use expensive processors that can handle 3D gaming graphics. Automotive display designers want to offer beautiful HMIs for the entire brand fleet, so they’re challenged with finding creative ways to bring that same premium graphical experience to hardware better suited to mid- and entry-level vehicles.

There’s also the matter of complying with NHTSA requirements and ISO 26262. Gaming graphics companies are too busy enhancing their software for gaming applications to be concerned with meeting the many compliance and functional safety standards involved in automotive applications. An automotive-focused software partner who can leverage gaming graphics in HMI designs is necessary to accommodate these powerful 3D elements and mission-critical needs.

Altia helps make the artist’s vision fit within the automotive cockpit by importing graphics from these powerful gaming graphics software tools into HMI designs, thus enabling slick special effects, 3D, photo-realistic scenes and sophisticated lighting. Case in point: Altia’s flexible ecosystem architecture allowed Cadillac to leverage Unreal Engine in the automotive display without losing sight of automotive functional safety requirements.

Like other popular graphics tools and 3D authoring tools, Unity and Unreal have become part of the new path to embedded GUI success. Like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Maya and Blender, game engines empower artists to create better graphics faster. Altia Design brings together content from these various tools to develop an integrated solution.

Getting to Embedded Hardware

Unreal Engine and Unity can do a lot for your designers, but they can’t get them all the way into the automotive cockpit. These large engines are designed to run on gaming PCs, so they don’t have to be efficient enough to run on the embedded hardware used in automotive applications.

The two companies are busy serving the needs of the massive gaming market, so they don’t have the time to be focused on architecting their technology to accommodate automotive OEMs. Fortunately, Altia makes it possible to import graphical assets from cutting-edge 3D gaming software and make them viable for embedded GUI teams by:

  • Scaling down assets to run on hardware with fewer resources and better performance.
  • Rendering scenes more efficiently than native Unity or Unreal applications to account for the differences between a gaming PC and embedded hardware.
  • Adding rendering capabilities and features as embedded hardware improves.

General Motors leveraged Altia’s scalability features for 3D gaming graphics to design some elements of the passenger display in the Cadillac LYRIQ.

Why Unity and Unreal Need Altia to Revolutionize Automotive Cockpits

Altia provides automotive OEMs with features they can’t get from Unity and Unreal alone:

  • MISRA compliance for robust code
  • ASPICE development
  • Functional safety
  • Government standards like boot time, PRNDL and other NHTSA standards

At the same time, Unity and Unreal use more RAM and Flash than is typically available for an automotive display. It takes a third party like Altia to meet boot time and other needs for automotive robustness. Altia renders more efficiently to save power and resources, which is especially important as the world moves toward EVs.

How Altia Works with Game Engines

Altia is the avenue through which automotive display designers can bring advanced assets like 3D graphics into the automotive cockpit. There are various ways in which Altia can engage with Unity, Unreal or any other graphic tool.

The partnership can be as simple as importing files into Altia Design and generating code with DeepScreen. Embedded GUI teams from automotive and beyond are already leveraging this method to bring assets from their favorite design tools into Altia Design and then add the animations or behaviors necessary for the GUI before generating the production code that gets those pixels from their artists into production devices.

Alternatively, designers can use the game engine to do all the rendering in the cockpit. Altia serves as the third party to handle concerns such as the fast boot splash screen and safety content.

It all comes down to what the automotive OEM wants. To transfer a design from a game engine to Altia, the team can export the design as an FBX file. Unity and Unreal import from different sources, so Altia needs to import in a similar fashion to take advantage of more capabilities of the tools. There are other options for high-end GUI designs, too. Some tools’ engines can import glTF files and support OpenGL ES, but it won’t run as well on embedded hardware. Altia takes half of the memory and flash.

The Good News for Automotive Display Designers

Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between modern HMIs and efficient rendering. You can do all your design on Unreal or Unity, then import your work into the Altia toolchain to make it safe and performant for production automotive applications. Unity and Unreal alone aren’t designed for automotive applications, but Altia can incorporate assets from these tools into HMI designs and bring these graphics to life in an automotive cockpit.

Vehicles are judged by many different standards. Increasingly, the quality of the automotive display is becoming one of the important components for drivers. Altia’s software and services help automotive display design teams make the most of the available technology to create HMIs that create a competitive advantage.

Now it’s possible to use assets from leading gaming design tools like Unity and Unreal in the automotive cockpit. Reach out today to Altia to learn more or get started.