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Programming a “host” in AWS Sumerian. (Amazon Photo)

Amazon Web Services made the first major announcement of its re:Invent cloud conference in Las Vegas overnight: a new service called Sumerian that the company touts as the “fastest and easiest way to create VR, AR and 3D experiences.”

With the move, Amazon is aiming to build on its status as the public cloud leader to move into the world of augmented and virtual reality, positioning AWS to compete in this area with other tech giants including Microsoft and Google, as well as a variety of VR and AR startups.

Sumerian provides a web-based editor for creating interactive 3D scenes, along with a library of objects and templates, and the ability for developers to upload their own 3D assets. Amazon says it can be used without prior 3D graphics or programming experience.

The service also includes virtual, customizable characters dubbed “hosts,” and integrates with the company’s Polly and Lex speech and natural language technologies, and uses the AWS Lambda serverless computing technology for accessing other Amazon cloud services.

The AWS Sumerian programming environment. (Amazon Photo)

Sumerian is launching in preview today, with the ability to create 3D scenes for Oculus, HTC Vive, and iOS devices. The company says support for Android is coming soon, along with the ability to import projects from the popular Unity cross-platform game engine.

After a midnight kickoff event, AWS re:Invent starts today with the company’s Global Partner Summit, building up to keynotes later in the week from AWS CEO Andy Jassy and Amazon CTO Werner Vogels. GeekWire is in Las Vegas to cover the event, and we’ll have more all week.

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