Unity Offering New Project Tools for Student Coders

Unity Technologies is pushing into the education realm with two new educational tools, one aimed at students and the other at educators. Of course, both tools heavily leverage Unity, the development platform for video games and other graphics-intensive applications.

It’s an auspicious time for Unity to launch educational tools. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), although still nascent, are very much on the rise; video games are becoming more sophisticated; and many enterprises are increasingly interested in graphically intense apps. Meanwhile, Unity finds itself locked in intense battle for market share with Unreal, which is also a go-to platform for designers and game-makers.

Like many a company, it seems that Unity has discovered the value of getting people interested in its platform as early as possible. One of its two educational tools, Create with Code, is intended to guide students through building a project in Unity (with an emphasis on C#) from the proverbial ground-up. At the end of the lessons, students can apply for the Unity Certified Programmer Certificate, which could prove useful if they want to break into either game design or a technology job involving 3D modeling. 

There’s also Unity Teach, a platform that allows educators to share and collaborate over lesson plans, professional development, and student projects.

“When it comes to introducing students to current science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) skills, today’s teachers face an unprecedented challenge,” Jessica Lindl, VP and Global Head of Education for Unity Technologies, wrote in a statement accompanying the tools’ announcement. “Technology is in a constant state of evolution and even today’s best engineers struggle to ensure their professional knowledge remains current.”

More information is available at Unity’s dedicated hub for education. As part of this drive, there are no charges for software licenses used in the classroom. (A “personal” version of Unity is usually free, provided revenue from products built with it doesn’t exceed $100,000 per year; the “Pro” version is $125 per month, while the “Plus” version for hobbyists will set you back $25 per month.)

Although many developers might associate Unity with games, the platform has expanded into new areas over the past few years. In 2018, for instance, IBM and Unity announced an open-source SDK for natural-language processing, which could enable developers to build spoken-word support into their AR and VR products. Unity’s moves, meanwhile, are often matched by Unreal, which has also pushed into arenas such as AR frameworks for iOS and Android apps.

On the game-development front, these sophisticated platforms are both potentially threatened by the rise of “no code” platforms such as Google’ Game Developer (still in prototype), which rely on visual programming systems and drag-and-drop UX to build games. Although it seems unlikely that development teams will rely on no-code tools to build big AAA games anytime soon, this new generation of development platforms could siphon off indie developers and students just beginning to learn the technology ropes.