Amazon launches web-based tool for developing VR and AR experiences

Kyle Walsh | CNBC

Announced on the eve of the company's Re:Invent AWS event, Amazon Sumerian is a new platform for developers to build and host VR, AR and 3D apps quickly and with minimal coding, for smartphones and tablets, head-based displays, digital signage and web browsers. Now in preview, Sumerian allows creation of VR and AR scenes that target platforms like the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Google Daydream, and it works with several other Amazon products. It includes a web-based editor for constructing 3D scenes, a library of pre-built objects and templates, a selection of customizable 3D characters that can serve as narrators for your scene, an asset import tool that lets you upload your own 3D components, and more.

The move taps into growing interest in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), which involve the use of 3D environments or elements overlaid upon the user's surroundings for applications such as training simulations, virtual concierge services, online shopping or virtual property tours.

In its description of the "immersive VR, AR and 3D environments", Amazon says the Sumerian editing tool will enable developers to "drag and drop 3D objects (e.g. furniture ...) into "scenes" (e.g. rooms, office environments and landscapes)".

The way the elements interact with one another and users can be controlled using scipts and the applications can be linked to Amazon Polly and Amazon Lex, which provide speech and natural language support for hosts, allowing characters to respond to users in a lifelike way.


In the enterprise, AR and VR are poised to make a big impact. Deploying those apps is also a problem, because each platform has its own unique specifications and processes that need to be tackled. Supported devices include Google's Daydream, HTC Vive, Facebook's Oculus Rift, and iOS mobile devices. Storage pricing for Sumerian 3D assets is 6 cents per gigabyte monthly, and the fees for the total volume of traffic generated by each scene is 38 cents per GB per month.

"But, customers are daunted and overwhelmed by the up-front investment in specialized skills and tools required to even get started building a VR or AR application", he continues.

The Amazon Sumerian also assists with mapping services from Mapbox.

Access to Sumerian is via the AWS Management Console - there is no software to install or upfront costs as Sumerian uses Amazon's normal "pay for what you use" billing.

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