Author(s): Raghu Gopal
This week, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced the launch of an augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) development toolkit called Amazon Sumerian. The platform lets developers build VR, AR and 3D apps through a browser interface, thus needing minimal expertise in programming. With Sumerian, developers can create scenes for VR headsets such as Google's Daydream, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift as well as iOS mobile devices.
Built on top of AWS, the toolkit aims to enable the creation of experiences such as "training simulations, virtual concierge services, enhanced online shopping experiences, virtual house or land tours". For example, it would be possible to build a virtual classroom where a company can train new employees or a virtual environment that allows people to tour a building remotely. According to Amazon, Sumerian is a straightforward tool with a small learning curve, making it easier for developers with limited experience to provide immersive and interactive content.
Sumerian is available for free, but there's a catch: it runs on top of the AWS platform, meaning developers must have an AWS account to use it.
Amazon is hoping to use its new service to offer AR, VR and 3D content to the mainstream. It's also trying to bring the content into its own domain. The timing is certainly right. AR and VR have suffered through a hype phase like all new technologies, but now things could be different, particularly thanks to Apple and its ARKit development framework, which is sparking renewed interest in AR among developers and consumers. Apple has used its software skills to make it possible to deliver industrial-grade AR experiences on over 100 million of its devices, and Amazon wants to exploit this potential.
Amazon is lowering the upfront costs of developing and publishing AR and VR content. With Sumerian, developers should be able to design interactive AR and VR applications in a few hours. Given the vast number of customers of AWS, Sumerian should draw attention from a wide array of companies at least interested in experimenting with these technologies.
There's a vital industry control point developing here. Like artificial intelligence engines and smart speakers, AR and VR platforms should give providers leverage in an emerging user environment. It's still early days, but given Amazon's amazing track record, Sumerian could be the language to create future realities.