Unity is a cross-platform game engine that has been around for almost 20 years. It is popular with game developers because it is very capable (recent Unity-based games include Outer Wilds, Cloudpunk, Hardspace: Shipbreaker, and Phasmophobia) and also because, with some limitations, it can be had for free. However, it is not only used for games. According to a recent one Vici according to some reports, some Unity employees are dissatisfied with the company’s associations with the U.S. military.
The Department of Defense's actions are no secret, but neither are the types of things the company emits out loud. For example, there are two references to U.S. Air Force programs on Unity. "Government and aerospace", along with a partnership of" virtual simulations and models "with Lockheed Martin, one of the world's largest defense contractors, not exactly the most prominent location possible.
Lockheed Martin, for example, "leverages Unity to reduce prototyping and physical testing, saving millions of dollars in discovering and solving problems long before development," while one company called Dynepic, which develops training platforms for clients, including the United States Air Force (the company's website includes an image of someone in a USAF uniform participating in what is presumably VR training). Military simulation and training report.
"Everyone knows Unity is a great tool for creating content, but with our Unity SDK developers we can quickly integrate training with MOTAR’s LMS (Learning Management System), which allows the Air Force to see consolidated data on student performance, ”explained Arthur Goikhman of Dynepic.
The company also seemed eager to describe this aspect of its business in an undated internal note obtained by Vice that provided specific guidance to Unity employees who spoke about their government work. Managers are told to use the terms "government" or "defense" instead of "military," noting that "nothing we are doing will be used in live warfare."
Despite this, three anonymous sources, all current and former Unity employees, told Vice that ethical concerns arise from the potential crossover between military and non-military projects. For example, the development of artificial intelligence for video game purposes can also end up in military-related projects, without developers being aware of what happened.
“I came to Unity explicitly because I naively believed in its marketing around‘ empowering creators ’and‘ making the world a better place ’or whatever,” a source said. "I got into artificial intelligence in the hopes of building technology 'for the greater good' or some similar nonsense. However, you learn pretty quickly that getting closer to war enthusiasts is the fastest way to make money almost universally. in the technology industry ".
Another source said that employees "empower" the products sold by the Unity government team, even if they do not work directly there.
After being contacted by Vice for comment, Unity CEO John Riccitiello issued an internal statement assuring employees that the company's military contracts "are very restrictive" and that "we do not support or give support for programs in which we consciously violate our principles or values. " In a separate statement, the company also said it has an internal advisory board on sales ethics, which is a "group of employees" from diverse backgrounds, geographies and parts of the company (who) help assess the next business opportunities that present potential risks or may be controversial ". According to Unity, it has rejected associations that do not conform to its principles in the recommendation of this council.
But Riccitiello's internal note provoked a backlash, according to another source, who said that a large number of employees are only becoming aware of Unity's military associations now and, while some, " mainly executives and senior executives, "have a strong" support "the attitude of the troops, most are not very happy. As a result, Riccitiello promised in a follow-up note that the matter would be discussed at the next meeting of the company's city council, scheduled for next week.
Unity is not the only gaming technology company to work with the U.S. military: Epic is actively promoting the use of its Unreal Engine technology military and police programsand Microsoft recently signed a $ 22 billion deal to supply the U.S. military with an integrated visual enhancement system (IVAS) based on its HoloLens headphones. A previous contract to supply the army with IVAS prototypes, worth $ 479 million in 2019, sparked a similar boost from Microsoft employees, who said in an open letter that "they did not sign up to develop weapons. ".