Using the Power of Unreal Engine for Rapid Transportation Visualization and Design with Beyond Typicals

By Sam Lytle, PE, Founder

A few years ago, when I was running a visualization company (Civil FX, now a Division of Parametrix), we had several requests to make 3D renderings of typical sections for clients looking to further communicate various road sections. These took considerable effort compared to how simple they were, and we never did enough of them to develop a more efficient workflow. Still, these experiences led me to understand the micro-industry of using 3D typical sections for efficient communication of roadway, downtown and other transportation projects. 

Fast forward a few years later and I was trying to make a better 3D visualization engine so engineers could ultimately do their own 3D visualization, later named Beyond CAD. In the early phases of development, I tried to think through every problem faced in 3D visualization in our industry and how many of them could be tackled by this single visualization engine. During this process I thought of the typical sections we had created at Civil FX and how (relatively) easy it would be to make a drag-and-drop section application that could make this process much more efficient. I added it to the list of features I hoped Beyond CAD would offer as we moved longer in development.

We started development of the typical section creator feature early in the process of Beyond CAD planning. While I would discuss this idea or show early prototypes or mockups, this typical section creator largely sat on the shelf for much of 2021. Of all the features I was building and showing progress, the 3D typical section creator seemed to have the most interest and questions and eventually I ramped up development with two full-time developers.

As this ‘feature’ continued to progress, two things became imminently clear 1) this was more than a feature and could be a stand-alone application and 2) some potential users of this typical section creator application wouldn’t be potential Beyond CAD users. We split out the feature into its own application and ‘Beyond Typicals’ was born. After months of testing and integrating feedback from beta users, Beyond Typicals was launched. While our users are still small and growing we are already hearing positive feedback, especially by those in the urban design and planning industry.

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