JCU Information Technology (IT) alumni Aidan Possemiers is one of the cofounders of TensorWorks, a Cairns-based software company that uses the Unreal Engine gaming technology for a variety of industries beyond games.
After studying a Bachelor of Information Technology (Honours), majoring in Game and Interactive Media Design at JCU, Aidan Possemiers and fellow JCU IT alumni Dr Adam Rehn founded TensorWorks, a software company in Cairns. Both Aidan and Adam shared an interest in developing cutting edge technology, and neither wanted to move away from regional Australia after their graduation.
“We started off here in Cairns doing AI-related projects. I had been researching artificial intelligence (AI) as part of my PhD, and Adam had completed his PhD in cloud computing already,” Aidan says. “Our initial consulting clients were in the geographic, science, mining and autonomous vehicles sectors. They were interested in using new technologies, such as AI, to accelerate their often manual workloads.”
In order to work on client projects, such as training the AI of self-driving cars, Aidan and Adam used a software called the Unreal Engine. “This is much cheaper than having cars making errors in the real world,” Aidan says. The Unreal Engine is free to use, and popular games like Fortnite and Unreal Tournament are using it. “Over time, it got to the point where we were becoming known more for our work with the Unreal Engine than our expertise in AI,” Aidan says.
Running the Unreal Engine in a container
The Unreal Engine is powerful, but it's also a sizable software (41 gigabytes) and needs several other programs (‘dependencies’) for it to run as well. “So, Adam had the idea, during a 72-hour game jam, to put the Unreal Engine into ‘containers’,” Aidan says. “Think of a time when you shared a file with a friend, and it wouldn’t open on their computer because it didn’t have the required software. Containers solve this problem because a container has everything the application needs to run.”
After eight months of hard work, Adam succeeded in building and running the Unreal Engine in a container. “That was the point when we started to get a lot of customers coming to us who wanted to use the Unreal Engine in the cloud,” Aidan says.
One customer, for example, wanted to show their architectural designs online, so their clients could see their future homes in their internet browser instead of coming into the office. “You can see a building in real time. You can choose to look at it, say, during sunset, and the lighting is updated photo-realistically,” Aidan says.
This service became especially popular during the lockdown periods in 2020 and 2021, when people were getting used to doing almost everything online, including planning their future homes.