Amazon Sumerian: A Brief Introduction

I have mentioned Amazon Sumerian in passing on this blog, but I thought it was time to look at the product a little more closely.

Sumerian is a tool for creating 3D experiences, built on top of WebXR. Amazon says that developers do not need any specialized programming or 3D graphics expertise to create VR, AR, and 3D applications. One advantage of Sumerian is that developers can use the software to build a scene once, that can be published and viewed on laptops, mobile phones, VR headsets, and digital signage. You can also integrate AI-based hosts with whom you can talk and interact (basically a high-end chatbot):

The following overview of Amazon Sumerian is presented by Kyle Roche, the General Manager of the Amazon Sumerian project:

Among the use cases that Amazon is promoting for Sumerian are:

  • Employee Education: Build scenes that let you on-board or train employees remotely. Employees can learn in a virtual classroom setting that is led by a Host, or walk through an environment that mimics their actual working environment. This can help employees retain information better while allowing you to train more employees at lower cost. 
  • Training Simulations: Build scenes that train skilled employees by simulating real world scenarios. Employees can get hands-on training in specialized fields such as healthcare, aviation, law enforcement, or industrial machinery. For example, you can create a simulation to train surgeons to use a new kind of surgical equipment. 
  • Field Service Productivity: Build scenes that improve the productivity of field and service workers in areas like repair, engineering, oil & gas, manufacturing, and more. For example, you can build an AR app that helps technicians troubleshoot and repair machinery. Looking through a mobile device screen, a user could see diagnostic metrics or animations of how to perform a repair on top of the machine.
  • Virtual Concierge: Build scenes with a Host that acts as a concierge to your end users for almost any industry. The concierge can greet users, answer common questions, and guide users through your company’s services and offerings. Users could see and engage with the concierge through a mobile device or kiosk on-site at your company, or they could interact with the concierge in a completely virtual portal using a head-mounted display.
  • Design and Creative: Build scenes that aid in the creation of new products or creative assets. Designers, creative professionals, and business professionals can use VR/AR to visualize and review mock-ups of a design as though it were real, helping to improve the efficiency of the product design cycle.
  • Retail and Sales: Build scenes that help you market and sell your product. For example, a retailer could create a mobile AR app that lets users see how furniture would look in their homes before buying. You could also create a scene that uses a Host as a virtual sales person who sells products and answers questions. 

The pricing for Amazon Sumerian consists of two components: charges for scene traffic (at a rate of $0.38 per gigabyte per month) and, if you decide to use them, additional charges for Amazon Lex or Amazon Polly hosting.

Now, I do not believe that Amazon Sumerian allows for true social VR (that is, the ability to create a scene which more than one avatar can experience at the same time), so therefore, I am not including it in my list of social VR/virtual worlds. But it is very interesting to see the direction that Amazon is going with this.

Like the rest of what I like to call the “Big Five” (Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft), Amazon has deep pockets to fund the future development and promotion of Sumerian (Amazon earned US$10 billion dollars in net income in 2018). The company has the potential to become a major disrupter in the social VR marketplace if (or when) they decide to include support for avatars representing the users, as opposed to just having virtual beings as hosts.

Thanks to NyushaZoryAna for the heads up!

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