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Unreal Reality

This April, Epic Games released Unreal Engine 5, which is a rendering software for computer games. Rendering softwares are responsible for the graphics and visual effects of games, with the new Unreal Engine 5 games looking indistinguishable from reality. Their so-called “Lumen” rendering accurately depicts shades and lighting, which presented the biggest challenge for graphic designers.


The previously described Lumen system comes from a term in physics in which a lumen is a measurement of light intensity. Fitting with the scientific word, the game engine calculates the angle from which light comes as well as the reflective properties of materials in order to create realistic shadow patterns.


Unreal Engine 5 also gives new possibilities in the realm of textures. When looking at a computer-generated surface one would notice the lack of texture and depth. Now, programmers will be able to use the new rendering engines to generate textures with cracks and random uneven surfaces. The share size of computation needed to create those textures will also be lessened, by using mathematical shortcuts. Just like in algebra, where students remember tricks to speed up calculations, Unreal Engine 5 continues to find shortcuts in computation and speed up rendering. This concept of computational shortcuts is far from new, instead, the software is simply utilizing it better than its predecessors, enabling programmers to create better games than ever before.


When confronted with Unreal Engine 5, Mrs.Hebel reacted with, “NOO NOOO! That is a real video and not a game; you are trying to fool me.” The striking resemblance to reality baffled her, with it demonstrating the rendering engine’s powerful capabilities. Similarly, senior Alexis Curtis exclaimed, “It is baffling and beautiful, how programmers can create those wonderfully mystical worlds.”


A handful of artists and development teams have already utilized Unreal Engine 5 to create breathtaking games and sceneries. Which look indistinguishable from reality. Aside from the incredible graphic of those video games, people are concerned about the impacts such a technology would have on people and especially children. When combined with AI-generated responses characters would be indistinguishable from reality, which could affect the development of children. In the past people criticized games for violent behavior even when research found no significant correlation. Correlation is drastically different from causation. But Unreal Engine 5 is different and is no longer just a game. With this graphical power the fear doesn’t come from violence, but from knowing what is real or not. A fake image could look perfectly real, with it fooling thousands of people. Similarly, children might have trouble distinguishing reality from a game, which in itself sounds dangerous even in the absence of violence. It is highly debatable, whether or not violence in video games affects aggression, but this new technology would have impacts far outside that scope, even in the friendliest game known to mankind. One of the most concerning points would be video evidence in court. If computers can create seemingly realistic videos, then what video evidence can be used in court?

Image courtesy of Unreal Engine.

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