We’d heard months ago that Amazon would be using its Re:Invent AWS event to roll out some a new service related to building in mixed reality — augmented reality and virtual reality. And on the eve of the conference kicking off, it’s done just that. Today the company announced Amazon Sumerian, a new platform for developers to build and host VR, AR and 3D apps quickly and with minimal coding, for smartphones and tablets, head-based displays, digital signage and web browsers. As with many other AWS services, Sumerian is “free” to use: you pay only for the storage for what you create.

The service — announced at AWS’s “Midnight Madness” pre-show event — is available in preview from today. Initially, the service is browser-based and works in any browser that supports WebGL or WebVR graphics rendering, such as Daydream, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and iOS mobile devices.

Amazon says different features in Sumerian in preview include the ability to design in AR, VR and 3D immersive environments using libraries of pre-built objects; the ability to create animated characters (using its Lex speech recognition and Polly for natural language understanding); and then shipping the apps to various hardware.

It’s also integrating with third-party developers for certain features — these include Mapbox for location services.

AWS naming the service Sumerian — the language spoken by Sumer people of Mesopotamia — is an interesting choice and fits with Amazon’s concept behind the service.

Sumerian (the original language) was one of the world’s first written tongues and is considered to be the basis of many languages that followed. Amazon’s thinking behind Sumerian (the AWS product) is that it is trying to bring AR, VR and 3D into the mainstream by building set of tools to make it much easier to use.

“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, Technology, AWS, in a statement. “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. With Amazon Sumerian, it is now possible for any developer to create a realistic, interactive VR or AR application in a few hours.”

It does this by way of providing many pre-configured building blocks to make creating apps quickly and with less coding to cover the basics like inanimate objects and the basics of a human form.

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