This post is adapted from ARtillry’s latest Intelligence Briefing, AR Business Models: The Top of the Food Chain, Part II. It includes some of its data and takeaways. More can be previewed here and subscribe for the full report.
In Amazon’s continued diversification, e-commerce isn’t the only endgame. AWS continues to rise in financial performance and standing within the company. And like many of the businesses examined in this report, AR and VR could find a logical and business-supporting home at AWS.
Specifically, Sumerian is AWS’ platform that lets developers and brands create and run VR, AR and 3D apps. It boasts relatively-little friction, such as not requiring specialized programming nor 3D graphics expertise. But what’s AWS’ motivating factor behind such an XR creation platform?
Like many examples in this report, it’s a logical integration. Given XR’s graphical and compute-intensive needs — which AWS caters to — it makes sense to seed the market. This includes tools to not only create 3D assets but to host and stream them in a web-based manner through AWS.
Sumerian GM Kyle Roche acknowledges the seeding strategy, but admits it isn’t necessarily the master plan. It’s more about supporting the shift towards visually immersive computing and helping AWS customers get there. That can be good business for AWS in several potential ways.
“AWS gets lots of credit for those types of coordinated efforts across different dimensions,” he told ARtillry. “Sometimes it’s simply that we have a lot of customers that want to get into that space so we’re trying to break down barriers to entry. Sumerian came out of a lot of those discussions.”
Drag & Drop
One example is an early prototype built on Sumerian by Fidelity Labs, a division of Fidelity Investments. It’s a 3D virtual persona that provides voice-guided visualization for investment data. In fact, virtual hosts are one of Sumerian’s early and demonstrative use cases, says Roche.
“Hosts are probably the biggest building block of Sumerian that’s obvious right now,” he said. “Having a character that you can make eye contact with, set up in the same way you’d set up an Alexa skill, just drag and drop in a browser, is super attractive for some customers.”
The drag & drop aspect is key to expanding XR’s addressable market to enterprises that don’t have 3D development muscle. If XR is to scale to projected levels, it will have to cater to that larger universe. We’re talking non-technical verticals like retail, finance and media & advertising.
For example, in functions like customer service and brand marketing, XR creation is only going to happen in some cases if it can be built in house. Or even in the case of outside help from creative agencies, they’re going to need tools like Sumerian to build XR apps for clients.
“A lot of enterprises or smaller shops want to get into XR,” said Roche. “As they see it come to life, they’re thinking ‘Okay, I need to get a 3D game engine, learn how to sculpt, animate, rig and all these complex things.’ They just want something that’s easy to use in a familiar environment.”
Yin & Yang
As for use cases, Sumerian recommends a handful of them, such as employee education, training simulations and field service. Roche believes this will start with host-guided experiences, then grow into deeper internet of things (IoT)-based integrations as developers gain their footing.
“Things that can go from concept to production quickly include any sort of guided experience like education, training, or news narration,” said Roche. “Visualization around AR sensor data for IoT applications seems to be a pretty quick win for customers too.”
IoT integrations could include oil & gas or mining scenarios, where remote field workers need to visualize equipment assembly through a hands-free headset. A lot of that sensor and IoT data are already integrated with AWS for existing customers, making it a natural extension.
IoT generally could be promising for and symbiotic with AR. All that IoT data from the equipment and consumer products around us can provide content for AR. AR in turn can provide an intuitive visual front end for all that data… a nice yin & yang relationship between the two.
“AR is the counterpart to IOT,” said PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann at AWE 2018. “AR isn’t very interesting without content to augment. And IOT isn’t useful if it produces complex information that people can’t interpret. But if you connect them… things happen in a circular flow of information.”
Follow the Money
There are also consumer-oriented use cases for Sumerian, such as media and publishing. Online publishers could monetize through ads that feature products in 3D. And though AWS and Amazon are separate entities, there are potential synergies in utilizing the latter’s immense product library.
“If you look at 2D click-through ads, if things move into 3D, Web XR becomes a new medium to drive ad revenue for content producers,” posed Roche. “They can build scenes and publish them and earn some of that referral credit and open up a new way to think about online advertising.”
Meanwhile, the goal for Sumerian is really to get the platform out there. And like most platforms, the range of use cases will evolve as developers run with it and build things. That includes commerce, entertainment, industrial applications and several other roads that lead back to AWS.
“We want to see what we can do to make this tool more accessible for customers to build things,” said Roche. “We’re going to see a lot of new areas of monetization open up, whether that’s 3D-based advertising or voice-driven experiences, and we’re very excited to just be a part of that.”
To continue reading, see ARtillry’s latest Intelligence Briefing, AR Business Models: The Top of the Food Chain, Part II.
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Disclosure: ARtillry has no financial stake in the companies mentioned in this post, nor received payment for its production. Disclosure and ethics policy can be seen here.