Amazon launches new tool aimed at people creating VR and AR apps

Amazon jumps into virtual reality with Sumerian for building VR apps in the cloud

"We now bring Mapbox location services to Amazon Sumerian, enabling users to integrate 3D maps and surfaces into their AR and VR applications and bring location-based experiences to life", said Alex Barth, VP of Business Development, Mapbox. This is not a simple 3D content creation tool like Microsoft's Paint 3D or Google's Poly, it is a whole suite of tools and services with which one can build multi-platform experiences that run on hardware like the Oculus, HTC Vive, and iOS devices using WebVR compatible browsers and Android devices using ARCore. Sumerian also takes a note from Unreal's Blueprints interface, allowing creators with no coding experience to use a visual scripting tool to put together all the logic needed to make the world interactive. Developers can choose from Amazon Sumerian's library of pre-built objects, download and import objects from third-party asset stores such as Sketchfab or Turbosquid, or create and import their own objects.

Amazon announced a new service at the AWS re:Invent Midnight Madness event. According to Amazon, the main problem with AR- and VR-powered apps is that creating them requires expertise in using a wide range of tools, including things such as 3D modeling, environmental design, animation and audio editing. You can request access to the preview with your AWS account number, but be warned: access is invite-only.

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Such applications typically run on mobile devices, in web browsers or specialised headsets such as the Facebook-produced Oculus Rift. Sumerian includes an object library of pre-built assets and templates, but users can also upload their own 3D assets to use as well.

Naturally, you can drag and drop assets directly into the scene. "But, customers are daunted and overwhelmed by the up-front investment in specialized skills and tools required to even get started building a VR or AR application", said Marco Argenti, vice president of technology for AWS. As more developers look to support AR and VR, and platform owners continue to expand what devices can do, Sumerian could help make AWS a key home for developing the applications of the future. 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.

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Access to Sumerian is via the AWS Management Console - there is no software to install or upfront costs as Sumerian uses Amazon's normal "pay for what you use" billing.

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