Making a play for a bigger share of the growing “serious games” market segment, Virtual Heroes has picked the Unreal game development from Epic as its core technology.

Virtual Heroes plans to use the Unreal Engine 3 in projects focused on e-learning and simulations and commercial client initiatives. The serious games segment is estimated to grow to a $1 billion market over the next 10 years, according to the Serious Games Initiative.

The latest version of the Unreal engine and earlier versions are among the most popular in the game development industry. Epic is based in Raleigh.

Financial terms of the Virtual Heroes-Epic deal were not disclosed.

Virtual Heroes plans to use the engine as part of its Dynamic Virtual Human Technology project for use in medical education and training. The company also is developing a series of products focused on what it calls HumanSim.

Using the Unreal engine will enable Virtual Heroes to create what the company says will be “the creation of the most photorealistic virtual humans seen in a simulation to date.”

Virtual Heroes also plans to utilize the engine for training and education products targeting game consoles and PCs.

“As an industry leader, we are committed to doing everything we can to advance the serious games market and to spearhead implementation of advanced learning technologies. This partnership is yet another opportunity for us to help improve the quality, realism and effectiveness of those applications,” said Jerry Heneghan, Virtual Heroes’ founder and chief executive officer.

Epic and Virtual heroes have worked together before in development of the America’s Army game for the Pentagon.

“[Virtual heroes] has the opportunity to become the market leader in the development of advanced learning technology solutions,” said Mark Rein, vice president of Epic. “We understand the tremendous market opportunity offered by this new genre of serious games and are excited about how VHI can accelerate growth in this market segment using Unreal Engine 3.”