Amazon Sumerian For Building Virtual Environments
Amazon Sumerian For Building Virtual Environments
Written by David Conrad   
Monday, 27 November 2017

AWS (Amazon Web Service) introduced a Midnight Madness event to get it's annual re:Invent conference off to an early start. The first announcement was Amazon Sumerian providing assets for building VR/AR apps as a service.

Amazon Sumerian is intended to make it easy for any developer to build Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and 3D applications, and run them on a wide range of mobile devices, head-mounted displays, digital signage, or web browsers.

VR/AR isn't just about gaming. Amazon's announcement explains:

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.

Two types of problem are faced by developers. Firstly the range of specialized skills required to create realistic virtual environments - not only animation but  3D modeling, environmental design, lighting effects, audio editing, and more. Secondly deploying the apps to a diverse range of hardware platforms with different specifications.



(click in image to expand)

Amazon Sumerian aims to overcome these barriers by providing a web-based editor that developers can use to easily and quickly create professional-quality scenes, a visual scripting tool to build the logic that controls how the objects and characters in the scenes behave and respond to actions and letting you run the scenes you've built on multiple platforms including  Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and iOS mobile devices (support for Android ARCore coming soon).

Sumerian which supports WebGL3 and WebVR. For editing it requires Firefox Quantum 57 and Chrome 62. It will run on Edge and Safari browsers with the caveat that users may experience a slightly degraded experience with fallback support from WebGL 2 to WebGL.



As well as enabling you to create 3D environments, Sumerian provides the facilities for Hosts - animated 3D characters, customized with characteristics such as gender, voice, and language, who guide  users through a scene by narrating scripts or answering questions. To do this Sumerian integrates with Amazon Lex, for automatic speech recognition and natural language understanding capabilities; and with Amazon Polly, which lets you input text which your Host can speak in lifelike voices across a variety of languages. Other interactions between objects, characters, and users occur through the use of AWS Lambda, AWS IoT, and Amazon DynamoDB.





Amazon is perhaps a bit late in climbing on the AR/VR bandwagon, but its strategy of providing a service that complements the hardware of all the major players all the major platforms could give it a vital role to play going forward.

Amazon Sumerian is in Preview and there's a form to fill in to request an invitation to participate. You'll need an AWS account number to apply and to state the types of AR or VR applications you are currently developing and the device platforms you are using. 

Charges for this serive are based on the amount of storage used for the 3D assets stored in Sumerian and the volume of traffic generated by your scene. You also pay for the costs of any other AWS services, like Lex and Polly. There is no charge to use Amazon Sumerian during the Preview and after that there's a 12 month free tierthat lets you create a 50MB published scene that receives 100 views per month for free in the first year.

More Information

Amazon Sumerian

Amazon Sumerian Preview

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This is what AWS is trying to tackle with Sumerian. The company said the new service eliminates the need for such expertise and makes it simple for developers to create AR- and VR-based applications and run them on any platform that supports WebGL or WebVR graphics rendering. That includes mobile devices, web browsers and head-mounted displays such as Facebook Inc.’s Oculus Rift.

Sumerian combines a web-based editor with visual scripting tools, allowing developers to “drag and drop” characters and objects into “scenes” they’ve created, and also to control how they behave and respond to actions.

Last Updated ( Monday, 27 November 2017 )

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