Nearly Better Than the Real Thing: Porsche Taps Video Game Tech to Break New Ground in Automotive Design

Porsche has grown rather chummy with the video game community of late. In 2017, the automaker used North America’s largest gaming expo as a platform for the debut of the 911 GT2 RS. You can attribute that to a relatively recent marketing push that resulted in its vehicles appearing in interactive media after a long-standing absence. Porsche, for whatever reason, spent years being exceptionally choosy about which developers can license its vehicles for their games. This usually results in blockbuster titles using “RUF” as a placeholder or simply abandoning Porsche vehicles entirely.

The last five or six years have been different, however. Automakers want to broaden their marketing approach and get away from the big industry trade shows. For Porsche, that means video games, and the relationship is only getting stronger.

This week, Porsche Epic Games and the graphical processing wizards at NVIDIA gathered to showcase what they claim is a major breakthrough in computer design rendering. While we can’t say with any authority that this will forever change automotive design, what they’ve managed to accomplish certainly looks impressive. 

The new software, unveiled at the SIGGRAPH (ACM’s “Special Interest Group on Computer GRAPHics”) conference in Vancouver, uses real-time ray-tracing software to more accurately represent the way light hits a three-dimensional object. For the purposes of the demonstration, the team used the Porsche 911 Speedster Concept — which looked as photorealistic as it gets.

According to NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang, the technology, dubbed “The Speed of Light” for the demo, combines a real-time cinematic experience utilizing NVIDIA’s Turing architecture, RTX technology, and new Unreal Engine rendering advancements. But it basically all amounts to “better graphics,” so why should the automotive sector care?

Well, instead of digitally shaping a vehicle and adding a virtual light source afterwards, the new software does it on the fly. It also interacts with the object in real time, meaning a designer can mold a computerized panel and rotate it endlessly (to see how light effects it from every angle) before deciding whether or not to scrap it. The end result is a simplified interface that allows the design team to have a more accurate idea of what a finished car would look like.

“Porsche’s collaboration with Epic and NVIDIA has exceeded all expectations from both a creative and technological perspective,” said Christian Braun, Manager of Virtual Design at Porsche. “The achieved results are proof that real-time technology is revolutionizing how we design and market our vehicles.”

The German automaker said the Porsche 911 Speedster Concept will be made available to consumers while NVIDIA and Epic Games intend to open the software up for the entire development community.

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