Amazon Sumerian 3-D example
Amazon entered the realm of virtual and augmented reality with the launch of its Sumerian tool for developers PHOTO: Amazon

Amazon wants to be the place that developers go to build virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and 3-D experiences.

In order to woo creators of this content to its cloud service, Amazon Web Services (AWS) introduced Amazon Sumerian, a browser-based development and hosting platform which the company claims makes it easy for web and mobile app developers to build VR, AR and 3-D experiences without any extra training.

Experiences built on Sumerian can run on hardware like the Oculus, HTC Vive and iOS devices using Web VR compatible browsers. Support for ARCore on Android devices is expected shortly.

Sumerian Aims to Deliver Fast and Easy 3-D Experiences

Tara Walker, technical evangelist at AWS, said she was able to build a 3-D experience using Sumerian in a matter of minutes. Developers can test the truth of Walker's claim for themselves by signing up for the Sumerian preview.  

Sumerian requires no software purchase to get started, developers simply log into their Amazon accounts and begin. Fees come into play with storage used for 3-D assets and traffic volume generated to access the virtual scenes.

Possibilities of AR and VR for Customers and Workplace

How does Sumerian, or other technologies like it, fit into a marketer's toolkit? Constellation Research principal analyst Cindy Zhou, who covers digital marketing transformation and sales effectiveness, offered a few examples.

"Marketers can use AR to superimpose objects like furniture to understand layout and sizing before they buy," she said. Zhou added that many beauty brands use AR for customers to try on shades of makeup.

Another example, that both Zhou and her colleague Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, mentioned was that of creating avatars in customer or workplace communities.

"It will be interesting to see when organizations create virtual avatars for things like education and training, corporate communications, HR onboarding, etc." said Lepofsky. He said it would be interesting to see if "customers create virtual participants in future versions of Chime meetings."

Lepofsky did note in a blog post, however, that AWS isn’t the first vendor in this space. Amazon faces stiff competition from established development platforms such as Unreal Engine and Unity as well as emerging image services, such as Google Poly.

'The Battlefront for Top Talent'

Lepofsky said it is still early days for AR, VR and 3-D in the enterprise.

"If Sumerian lives up to its billing, it's not difficult to imagine enterprises, ISVs (independent software vendors) and systems integrators taking a look at it," said Lepofsky.

One question worth asking with new product announcements like this is who the solution is aimed at: technology developers or marketers. With Sumerian, Amazon is clearly targeting developers.

Commenting on the announcement, Constellation Research vice president and principal analyst Holger Mueller told CMSWire that, "Amazon has done a good job allowing the average developer — with no AR/VR experience — to build a good AR/VR and avatar/assistant applications that can be deployed across multiple devices and platforms."

So, if developers like building on Sumerian, it may be the tool that they choose when a marketing manager requests that a VR, AR or 3-D product be built.

"Amazon is taking high compute apps like AR/VR and 3-D (and putting them into) to the hands of leading developers. This is the battlefront for the top talent,” Constellation Research founder Ray Wang told CMSWire. He noted the main consideration with Sumerian is browser verses device. "It sets up a direct war with Apple on #ARKit and Samsung VR as well as Google's kit," he said.