Unreal Engine 4.25 adds native point-cloud support

Epic Games has added native support for laser-scanned point clouds in the latest version of its Unreal Engine. 

Unreal Engine 4.25, released in early May, was announced with a blog and several videos covering the major new features of the platform, which included initial support for Microsoft and Sony’s upcoming next-generation consoles, real-time ray-tracing, physics tweaks, a new media output pipeline for cinematic rendering, updated shading features and other visual fidelity improvements.

For photogrammetry enthusiasts and professionals, Epic also unveiled built-in support for importing, visualising, editing and interacting with point clouds acquired from laser scanning devices. Point clouds can be imported with an updated point-cloud plugin, available in the plugin window within the editor. 

“These real-world captures are great for visualizing locations, or for putting newly designed elements in context,” the company’s Unreal Engine blog stated. 

“The initial version of the  plugin was previously made available on MarketPlace; in addition to being included in Unreal Engine 4.25, the latest plugin also offers new support for working with multiple point cloud segments while still maintaining frame performance, an option to delete hidden points, and various other small enhancements.”

Point clouds can be loaded into Unreal Engine’s content browser before being dragged and dropped directly into the scene view of the editor. From there they can be edited and trimmed to the user’s liking. 

The support also covers working with multiple point cloud segments while maintaining frame performance, and the plugin is able to handle “very large” datasets with on-demand streaming of data from files and GPU streaming, the company said. 

Performance on large datasets is managed by a level-of-detail system that prioritises point density in the centre of the viewport, which Unreal said made the solution ideal for VR.

The point cloud plugin specifies several attributes that allow users to colourise and control the appearance of points based on RGB, intensity, elevation, or classification data. Shapes can also be visually manipulated with included post-processing materials. 

The point clouds imported can also cast and receive dynamic shadows. Collisions using the editor’s built-in physics engine are also possible. 

The latest release of the engine also includes production-ready support for Microsoft’s HoloLens 2.  

“As well as performance improvements, there’s new support for mixed reality capture from a third-person camera view, the new ability to enable HoloLens remoting from packaged Unreal Engine applications via a command line, and initial support for Azure Spatial Anchors,” the announcement stated.