Amazon is no stranger to changing company direction and expanding into new markets. Starting out as an online bookstore, Amazon is now one of the giants of technology, with fingers in almost every conceivable pie. Small wonder, then, that the company is working towards a new platform for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
The platform has been named Sumerian, and is designed to be an all-in-one development platform for the building for VR and AR apps for both smartphones and VR headsets, and eventually, VR and AR apps that can run direct from the web browser.
Amazon have chosen not to develop its own brand of smartphone or headset, instead going the platform-agnostic route that means Sumerian can integrate with a number of existing devices on the market. Sumerian is built using open web standards and can support Apple’s ARKit and Android ARCore, so an app built in Sumerian can run on a range of devices.
As part of Amazon Web Services, Sumerian is priced according to the usage-based model already used by web services instead of using a subscription, and connects to other Amazon Web Services services.
PCMag managed to get a demo of Sumerian, with Rob Marvin being shown a tour of the drag-and-drop app editor, 3D object library, Visual State Machine for scripting automated scenes as well as getting a look at the process of creating AI ‘hosts’, which users can have conversations with from within these VR experiences.
Marco Argenti, a VP of AR/VR, but also the AWS Mobile, Serverless Computing, and IoT divisions spoke about the factors influencing Amazon’s decision to dive into AR and VR development, which involved the emergence of a strong smartphone VR/AR market and untapped potential of the business-to-business VR market: “These signals were strong enough for us to actually start getting into the process of designing Sumerian. In the classic Amazon way, we started working backward from customer use cases and then eventually funding a development team to build the product,” Argenti explained.
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