Last November, AWS announced a new product called Amazon Sumerian, a toolkit and platform for developers to build “mixed reality” apps — that is, using virtual reality, augmented reality and 3D — without needing to have any specialised programming or graphics skills. And today, after running the service in a private beta for the last several months, Sumerian is now generally available.
In addition to being able to build a mixed reality app, you can also deploy it without writing custom code, Amazon says. The web-based editor also integrates with Amazon Lex for natural language and AI, Polly to turn text into speech, AWS Lambda for running code, AWS IoT to connect with Amazon’s IoT platform, and Amazon DynamoDB if you are running a NoSQL database. It supports WebGL and WebVR and Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, iOS and Android ARCore. Support for the new Oculus Go is coming, AWS said.
AWS has made huge strides in building out its cloud business, where developers, startups and much larger and mature organizations use the company’s infrastructure to host apps and other services, in what looks to be on track to be a $20 billion business this year. More recently, Amazon has been looking at ways of expanding its reach (and revenues) with these companies by offering a deeper range of services running within the cloud. Amazon Sumerian is a part of that strategy.
As Kyle Roche, the GM of Amazon Sumerian, described it, the company saw a gap in the market between the rise of new VR, AR and 3D tech, and a huge pool of organizations that might want to use that technology, but either lack the expertise and resources to do so, or would like to test something out before dedicating those resources more seriously.
“We are targeting enterprises who don’t have the talent in-house,” he said. Tackling new tech can sometimes be “too overwhelming, and this is one way of getting inspiration or prototypes going. Sumerian is a stable way to bootstrap ideas and start conversations. There is a huge business opportunity here.”
He said that early users in the closed beta have included a company developing training for medical devices, Mapbox building a framework for geospatial rendering, a business designing a walk-through a hotel lobby, e-sports companies, and some media and entertainment properties.
Adam Schouela, the VP of Fidelity Labs, said that the financial services giant has been working on a range of potential applications, including solutions to train its customer relations teams, ways of visualising financial modelling, and services for its customers to discover and use Fidelity’s services.
“What we try to do is look at emerging tech and rapidly build prototypes for Fidelity and the financial services industry,” he told TechCrunch. We’ve done a lot of work in the voice interfaces and user interfaces with AR and VR. When we saw what Sumerian was providing and potential integration between voice interfaces and VR, we thought this was a great opportunity. With voice interfaces one of the great use cases is when your eyes and hands are otherwise busy. With VR, it’s stuck to face and you can’t see and your hands are busy so voice happens to be a great way of interacting with virtual environments.”