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AWS announces new development platform for VR, AR, and 3D apps

By Kai Ping Lew
Wed 29 Nov 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

At midnight, during the AWS re:Invent Midnight Madness kick-off event, Amazon Web Services announced Amazon Sumerian, a new service that makes it easy for any developer to build Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and 3D applications, and run them on mobile devices, head-mounted displays, digital signage, or web browsers.

With Amazon Sumerian’s editor, developers can build realistic virtual environments, populate them with 3D objects and animated characters, and script how they interact with each other and the application’s users.

VR and AR apps created in Amazon Sumerian will run in any browser that supports WebGL or WebVR graphics rendering, including Daydream, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and iOS mobile devices.

To log into Amazon Sumerian, developers just need to log into the AWS Management Console.

There is no software to install or upfront costs—customers pay only for the storage used for 3D assets and the volume of traffic generated to access the virtual scenes they create.

Customers in many industries are adopting VR and AR technologies to build realistic virtual environments, or overlay virtual objects on the real world, for a range of applications, including training simulations, virtual concierge services, enhanced online shopping experiences, virtual house or land tours, and much more.

Until now, creating realistic virtual environments, or “scenes,” required specialised skills and the use of multiple different tools for disciplines such as 3D modelling, environmental design, animation, lighting effects, audio editing, and more.

And then, once a VR or AR application is ready, developers must learn and implement unique specifications and deployment processes for each of the major hardware providers.

Amazon Sumerian solves these challenges by providing a web-based editor that developers can use to easily and quickly create professional-quality scenes, and a visual scripting tool to build the logic that controls how the objects and characters in the scenes behave and respond to actions. 

Amazon Sumerian also makes it easy to build scenes where rich, natural interactions between objects, characters, and users occur through the use of AWS services such as Amazon Lex, Amazon Polly, AWS Lambda, AWS IoT, and Amazon DynamoDB.

“Customers across industries see the potential of VR and AR technologies for a wide range of uses—from educating and training employees, to creating new customer experiences. But, customers are daunted and overwhelmed by the upfront investment in specialized skills and tools required to even get started building a VR or AR application,” says Marco Argenti, AWS technology vice president.

“With Amazon Sumerian, it is now possible for any developer to create a realistic, interactive VR or AR application in a few hours.”

With Amazon Sumerian, developers can:

  • Design immersive VR, AR, and 3D environments—Amazon Sumerian’s easy to use editor allows developers to drag and drop 3D objects (e.g. furniture, buildings, and natural objects) and characters into “scenes” (e.g. rooms, office environments, and landscapes). Developers can choose from Amazon Sumerian’s library of pre-built objects, download and import objects from third-party asset repositories such as Sketchfab or Turbosquid, or create and import their own objects. Amazon Sumerian also includes templates with pre-populated scenes.  
  • Easily create animated characters powered by AWS AI services—Developers can also use Amazon Sumerian to create animated 3D characters that can guide users through a scene by narrating scripts or answering questions. Amazon Sumerian is integrated with Amazon Lex and Amazon Polly, which provide automatic speech recognition (ASR), natural language understanding (NLU), and text-to-speech capabilities, so that Amazon Sumerian characters can understand and respond to users in lifelike conversations.  
  • Deploy applications to popular VR and AR hardware—Amazon Sumerian scenes run in any browser that supports WebGL or WebVR graphics rendering. Amazon Sumerian scenes are hosted in the AWS cloud and served from a publicly accessible endpoint, so that users can access them from anywhere.
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