Amazon Sumerian Makes Developing Web-Based VR/AR Apps Easier

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

Amazon today revealed a new service called Sumerian that allows anyone to create and run augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and 3D applications easily.

Sumerian lets developers build applications without requiring any specialised programming or 3D graphics expertise, and can be accessed from a web browser. According to Amazon, the VR and AR apps created in Amazon Sumerian will run in any browser that supports WebGL or WebVR graphics rendering.

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.

Amazon launched the project at midnight on Sunday at the launch of the AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, which continues through this week.

Developers will also be given access to a set of "hosts", these are 3D characters that can customer to interact with a user.

The move comes after Google launched Poly, a platform that lets you find, view, and download free AR and VR objects and scenes-everything from a rocket ship to a sandcastle, piano, and pirate.

However, Unity Labs EVP Sylvio Drouin told Ars previous year that the Unity Labs team has focused heavily on making its own way for creatives to build VR worlds without advanced technical knowledge.

The new tool looks like it could be aiming to lure away developers from software like Unreal Engine and Unity which are used to make the majority of VR and AR apps now available.

Other features include: ability to design immersive VR, AR and 3D environments; ability to create animated characters powered by AWS AI services; and the ability to deploy apps to popular VR and AR hardware.

"Customers across industries see the potential of VR and AR technologies for a wide range of uses - from educating and training employees to creating new customer experiences", said Marco Argenti, vice president of technology at AWS. Subscribers can embed their own objects, choose from a pre-loaded library, or use third-party offerings from repositories including Sketchfab and Turbosquid. These hosts integrate with Amazon Polly and Lex to provide natural language capabilities similar to those underpinning the Alexa virtual assistant.

However, customers are afraid of the up-front investment and specialized tools needed to craft useful VR or AR apps.

Additionally, if an app needs a map embedded, Amazon Sumerian supports location platform Mapbox.

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