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What Is Real-Time 3D Rendering (And Why the Future of Digital Depends on It)

By PureWeb10.22.19
What is real-time 3D rendering (and why the future of digital depends on it)

It’s a long way down from where real-time 3D rendering software has come. The past several years have brought exciting advancements as the applications for 3D imaging have skyrocketed. Thanks to myriad technological advances, 3D images can be rendered in real time with minimal human input and without the need of dedicated workstations. End users are also no longer required to have high-performance gaming computers, or wait for tedious downloads to their device of choice.

The easy availability of 3D rendering today creates many new use cases for it in commercial, industrial, and personal settings. Immersive digital experiences created with real-time 3D rendering software are now indistinguishable from photorealistic. Auto manufacturers use it to model vehicles that are in development, or available to configure for pre-purchase, just as organizations in industries like energy, military and healthcare now rely on 3D simulators to enhance employee training efforts.

Accessing these images can be the tricky part. That’s where PureWeb comes in. We provide best-in-class interactive streaming solutions for real-time 3D and photorealistic renderings to any device on a browser — anytime, anywhere. But let’s take a closer look at real-time 3D, its best use cases, and more.

What is real-time 3D?

If you’ve ever had to look at a 2D drawing and visualize a 3D product, you know how challenging that is. Real-time 3D allows viewers to see and interact with 3D images or scenes, such as in video games, that appear to be moving in real time.

Real-time 3D imaging streamlines everything by placing designs in the real world they will occupy. While products are in development, the imaging makes it easier to see whether you’ve made a mistake in your design and what is needed to fix it. It gives you the power to see as much detail as possible and make crucial decisions based on that.

Developing in 3D rather than a flat 2D drawing improves efficiency and can even accelerate innovation. A virtual army of technicians used to be needed to give 2D images depth and volume. They worked in what were known as render farms, and the process was labor-intensive, to say the least. Creating 3D images for games, movies, or enterprise applications involved large amounts of time, labor, and money.

Benefits of real-time 3D

It’s no surprise that the billion-dollar video game industry has shown ample interest in the future of photo-real 3D graphics. Epic Games’ Unreal Engine and Unity 3D, two leading game-creating platforms, rely on real-time 3D graphics to make tomorrow’s games stunning.

The quality of 3D images has improved at the same time that we’ve conjured new ways of using those images. For instance, VR and AR enable ultra-realistic experiences and environmental overlays that seamlessly blend the physical and digital worlds. There is huge potential to make static environments dynamic for the purposes of safety, education, e-commerce, entertainment, and just about any industry you can think of.

Market research shows just how rapidly enthusiasm for real-time 3D is growing. The 3D rendering market was worth $1.5 billion in 2018, but by 2025, it’s projected to grow to $6 billion.

Companies are eager to invest in real-time 3D because it supports many of their core objectives around growth and revenue by giving clients informative, interactive experiences in which they can seamlessly visualize products and real-world training simulation.

Real-time 3D has great potential in industries some might not have even imagined. E-commerce, an industry largely driven by the allure of flashy images in sectors such as real estate and automotive, could uncover countless ways to use interactive 3D experiences to better engage car buyers during the research phase.

There is increasing evidence that consumers are ready to integrate 3D images into the real world. The popularity of mobile games like Ingress, in which reality (GPS locations) and augmented reality intersect, is just one great example. Gaming is more popular than ever, in large part because it transitioned from an activity often involving solitude to one that facilitates social connections. As digital worlds increasingly offer a space to interact, people will eagerly spend more time in them, as any Fortnite player can tell you.

Market conditions, the public appetite, and current technology are creating an environment in which real-time 3D rendering software promises major advantages in tomorrow’s manufacturing, marketing, and training landscapes. Emerging cloud-based technologies are now making it possible to stream data-intensive 3D graphic files to any device anywhere.

This means companies will no longer need to invest huge amounts of time and money to generate high-fidelity images with realistic dimensions. With the technology becoming more accessible, more companies can tap into the power of real-time 3D rendering. Epic Games has even begun partnering with universities to fill the much-needed talent pipeline for creators by educating them on things like game design, and how to best leverage its Unreal Engine for business use-cases.

Industries primed for real-time 3D

It’s easy to let your imagination run wild with the hundreds of potential applications for 3D renderings. From the earliest design phase all the way to consumer interaction, real-time 3D is already transforming a range of industries.


3D car rendering software gives designers a sharper look at how a vehicle occupies space and integrates elements. 3D imaging makes it easy to show off those vehicles in true digital showrooms.

Read Next: The future of car buying lies in photoreal 3D configurators

Car buyers can customize the vehicle features they want — paint color, wheel style, etc. — and then view their personalized car from any angle. Showing people exactly how their new vehicle will appear drives sales, encourages upselling, and speeds up the sales cycle.

Buyers in today’s market do extensive research from the comfort of their homes and then walk into the dealership once they’re ready to buy. This is why it’s critical to make a powerful impact online.

Chevy Corvette’s 3D configurator was a big hit when it rolled out this summer featuring the 2020 Stingray. With its 3D car visualizer, Chevy is giving other brands like Audi, a leader in 3D visualization technology, a run for its money.

Related Read: Chevy Corvette 3D configurator almost breaks the net (yours could do better)

On Audi’s German website, users can select a 3D Audi model and configure the exact features they want in real time. Previously, the changes would have been shown on a static image, typically a profile view of the vehicle. With the advent of real-time 3D rendering, though, users can view changes to the seat color or headlight style from any angle immediately. Users get a better sense for how the vehicle will actually look, making it easier to customize and more tempting to make the leap to a purchase.


Even the tired old Weather Channel has become much more exciting to watch since it began incorporating 3D graphics. These graphics allow meteorologists to “enter the storm,” illustrating what the worst weather looks like from the inside and making the viewing experience more immersive than ever.

TV producers adapting to the fact that audiences are surrounded by distractions need new ways to keep viewers engaged. Compelling graphics are a great solution, not only because of their novelty, but also because they make information more natural to digest.

Consider a 3D graphic that the Weather Channel used as Hurricane Florence approached the Carolinas in 2018. As the storm rolled in, animated “floodwaters” began to build up around the on-air anchor’s feet. Viewers could look at the water rising past his kneecaps and immediately understand the danger of the storm in a way that rainfall totals and storm maps could never communicate.

Sportscasters are using similar techniques to bring fans onto the field, integrating the live game with on-screen graphics that provide more opportunities to inform or entertain viewers.

The mixed-reality graphics were created using Unreal Engine with undeniably impressive results. Media expectations will continue to evolve as 3D images play a bigger role.


Video games have used 3D graphics for decades now. Real-time 3D promises to make developing these images a lot easier, faster, and more affordable, which is great for game creators. For players, however, streaming might be the most exciting application of real-time 3D.

Google and Microsoft are racing to establish a 3D cloud gaming market. Many believe this to be the future of gaming, so it’s not surprising that both companies are investing heavily to lead the space. As real-time 3D rendering continues to improve, the need for a physical cartridge or disc could become a thing of the past.


When most people think of training in a corporate setting, they might think of PowerPoint presentations, videos, and heavy binders of printed material. In military or industrial settings, allowing trainees to interact with high-resolution 3D renderings of the equipment and materials they will handle, as well as the physical spaces they will need to navigate in real-world situations, greatly improves the success and “stickiness” of the training.

Virtual training environment software also allows companies to gamify the training process, making the experience active rather than passive. Users stay engaged longer and can better remember the lessons through experiential learning. One great example is how Lockheed Martin relies on 3D instructional technology to teach technicians how to maintain the sensors in Apache helicopters. The training includes four targeted modules that provide technicians with more actionable information than reams of service manuals could.

AEC and Real Estate

Real estate developers depend on detailed blueprints and physical models made of foam core or cardboard to illustrate how building projects will actually take shape. The problem is that neither option is very instructive.

3D imaging allows architects and developers to create a structure and place it in a space so that viewers can then tour the interior and exterior from any angle without limitations.

Real-time 3D rendering can model what the view will look like from the windows or how the facade will appear with a variety of roof styles. 3D modeling of homes is cheaper than the alternatives, and it provides buyers with a more accurate look at what they’re purchasing.

REIN, a PureWeb creative partner in AEC, uses this technology to create digital tours of luxury condos created using Unreal Engine. Prospective buyers can walk through a 3D model of the entire home, even homes that haven’t been built yet. Or they can use the same tool to customize the amenities inside, configure room layouts, and experiment with paint colors and furniture arrangements. In practice, a tool like this helps real estate buyers just as much as sellers.

The most common questions about real-time 3D

The wow factor that technology like real-time 3D can bring definitely receives attention from businesses across industries. But many professionals might struggle to understand whether the technology is right for them. Here are some answers that might clear up some confusion around commonly asked questions:

How can I make sure that what I’m creating enables the best real-time experience?

Focus on optimization and workflows above all. Game engines like Unity and Unreal Engine have 3D rendering requirements for optimizing images to fit the platform they will appear on, such as web, mobile, VR/AR, etc.

We recommend following these guidelines closely throughout the development life cycle because each platform has strengths and weaknesses that developers need to work within. For example, an image optimized for a video game might lag when moved to a website. Striking the right balance between rendering time and quality versus performance isn’t always easy. This is why developers should be aware of their priorities and what kinds of obstacles their workflows might create.

Is this technology secure?

If you’re working on a top-secret auto model or proprietary rig design, you need certainty that your data is secure. It’s important to ask whether real-time 3D rendering creates any security liabilities, especially now that the majority of users work out of the cloud.

PureWeb has an extensive background in healthcare data that informs our entire approach to security. We understand the importance of confidentiality and keeping data secure — our business depends on it — so our client data security is ironclad.

Can it run on any device?

Real-time 3D rendering is an extremely versatile application. Developers can use it for games or VR and then move those assets onto the web, where they become accessible to any device with a connection to the internet. And yes, that includes smartphones.

In the past, moving assets between platforms would have required dedicated workstations and a lot of labor hours. With the advent of cloud-based streaming services like PureWeb’s Reality, renderings are immediately available to users regardless of their graphics processing unit on their device. These services offer widespread accessibility for both developers and users while still keeping data secure.

How does real-time 3D improve on existing capabilities?

Right now, users can see an image, but they can’t easily engage with it. Making 3D imaging tools more flexible and intuitive allows designers to see objects in new ways, highlighting areas that require attention and bringing a more complete perspective to identify design strengths and weaknesses.

In this way, real-time 3D focuses designers on the most important elements at each stage. Now that 3D imaging in popular game engines has become so accessible, industries that historically didn’t have the means to use it — like engineering and architecture — can finally embrace the technology and the benefits it offers.

Streaming real-time 3D at scale: WebGL vs cloud rendering

WebGL already makes it possible to share 3D images online, but it’s far from perfect. Fidelity and security are problematic, and users can share only a limited amount of 3D content. For more on the current limitations of deploying real-time 3D applications via WebGL, check out this article we recently published.

PureWeb offers an alternative to WebGL in the form of cloud rendering and streaming. Users enjoy precise image fidelity without needing a high-end GPU and benefit from stronger data security. Admittedly, cloud rendering comes at a higher cost, but that’s in exchange for greater overall value. Any enterprise that needs to rapidly collaborate on high-resolution images now has a viable alternative to WebGL.

Our team is making real-time 3D rendering affordable for companies across industries. We distinguish ourselves by scaling to accommodate any device, enabling widespread distribution and access, and ensuring strong security in the cloud.

We also have partnerships with the developers of Unity 3D and Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, as well as extensive experience working with an array of diverse enterprises that use game engines to create. PureWeb offers an unparalleled suite of resources to make real-time 3D rendering advantageous for all.

Need resources for creating real-time 3D with Unity and Unreal? We've compiled them

Imagine the unspeakable horror of creating documents using only HTML. Instead of a formatting bar or handy shortcut key combos, your workday would be an 8-hour nightmare of angle brackets, every paragraph bookended with a <p> and </p>, every item in a numbered list choked by a <ul> and </ul>.

For some time, this kind of manual-intensive work defined the world of 3D content creation. That is until companies like Unity and Unreal realized time is money and invested energy into developing powerful game engines, analogous to beloved word processors.

Much like military technology filters its way into other industries (think microwaves and duct tape), 3D technology is travelling into various sectors. Engineers, architects, construction firms, automakers, and more can create real-time 3D content using Unity and Unreal Engine. To sweeten the deal, there’s a treasure trove of online resources available to help them get started. Read more

PureWeb is the most powerful streaming platform for real-time 3D

An interactive 3D streaming experience takes more than firing up a few servers and creating 3D models.

You need a cross-disciplinary team of experts and the right technology to manage sessions that are reliable, high quality, and cost-effective.

Here's what makes us different:

  • We're a fully managed, scalable solution that can handle traffic spikes like no other
  • We integrate easily into all your workflows, such as training programs and e-comm funnels
  • We deliver reliable, high quality experiences to any device, anywhere in the world
  • We support the design process end to end by enabling collaborative visualizations
  • We can deploy either on premise on in the cloud - all depending on your need
  • We provide a cost-effective solution designed with efficiency in mind

Read more about the PureWeb difference

When you’re ready to get a glimpse of the future of web-based 3D that's interactive and photoreal, contact us for a demo.