What Amazon Sumerian means for webVR and Rodin

webVR — the right fit

Let’s break down the state of the VR/AR creation market, the tools in existence and how this influences Rodin’s positioning with the introduction of Amazon Sumerian.

Developing a VR app today is like developing websites in the 90s. Complex tools. Costly. Developers must learn 3D modeling, game engine development, multiple platforms and native coding libraries that require years of study. Until now - somewhat.

Currently 80% of all VR/AR apps are developed either on Unity or Unreal. Unity/Unreal development is expensive, developers are in shortage, and there is a built-to-deployment time of weeks. However, three.js and webGL coupled with webVR enables 80% of all developers to build simpler experiences with Javascript; no need to learn a new skillset, deployment is instant and cost of doing so is cheap.

Rodin: the Dora of the webVR space

Rodin makes creating VR/AR experiences simple and accessible. By leveraging and betting on webVR, we’ve developed a platform for Javascript developers to easily create and deploy virtual reality experiences and apps to all the VR/AR headsets. If you know Javascript, the most popular programming language, Rodin turns you into a world class VR developer.

The issue plaguing webVR is that nothing is unified, there is no concrete way of building apps and no support. Hence, why we built Rodin. And in doing so we inherited the gargantuan uphill struggle of both defining and validating that:

  1. webVR is a viable tech for building VR/AR experiences and that the inherent issue of latency and ability to mold complex 3D environments will over time be resolved and it will be done quickly enough to ensure its right to exist.
  2. webVR based platforms with powerful libraries and building tools will enable everyone to build VR/AR experiences. The emergence of these platforms will help subdue inherent barriers and put forth the momentum necessary in solving the lack of content/app problem plaguing the ecosystem now.
A small company doing what no one else is doing — it’s tough.

Rodin established 1. and was alone in validating 2. and also had to spend tremendous resources for exposure. For us, validation of the market is number one — a small company doing what no one else is doing — it’ s tough.

The emergence of Amazon Sumerian

When a big company, like Amazon, decides to do the same thing, it’s arguably a validating stamp across the board. It establishes that this is a solution to a substantial problem.

Just like AI/ML, the VR/AR ecosystem is just emerging and it’s a collaborative market now. In an exploiting market, the idea that only one of us can exist does not have any merit. With the entrance of a product like Sumerian, we are establishing that:

  1. The market and the demand is big/valuable enough
  2. The differentiation in the product is big enough
  3. The differentiation leverages the significance of our product and positioning.
When a big company, like Amazon, decides to do the same thing, it’s arguably a validating stamp across the board.

Here is is what’s great about Sumerian:

  1. It lowers barrier to entry: It lowers the barrier to entry into building and experimenting with VR/AR experiences
  2. It makes VR/AR scalable: It’s hosted on AWS and the fact that it can be hosted — cheap and quick scaling ensures that more people will be thinking of developing real-life, scalable, practical products for VR/AR. The idiom that VR/AR is for games and one-off experiences no-longer exists — opening the door for leveraging the real power of VR/AR through social and communication products.
  3. It’s for everyone: Anyone can build experiences — designers and developers alike.

Revisiting Rodin’s positioning

The emergence of Amazon Sumerian provided another leveraging point and is further cementing our positioning in the market. Here is how it helped further define Rodin’s positioning:

  1. Rodin is not for everybody — our target segment is developers. Developers build real apps that solve real problems — apps built for the ‘Appstores’ that provide services which will generate revenue. Rodin is the enabler of this. At the moment, Rodin’s webVR-based engine is the only vr-centric engine, which boosts the VR experience performance and provides features that conventional browsers do not have.
  2. Rodin can be used for enterprise level VR/AR production. If a core product is VR/AR based, a team of developers will use Rodin to build it. And for the rest who just need simple VR/AR experiences, there is Sumerian.

As an example, think about building your own website. If you need to create a simple (but limited) and cheap website without any coding knowledge, you can use Wix.com or Squarespace. Sumerian is the equivalent of Wix.com for the VR/AR space. But if there is a major back-end and the site is your core business, Wix.com will be too limited, and you will need developers to create it from the scratch with heavy customization. Rodin is the tool for developers to build that “custom site” in the VR/AR space.

3. Rodin is a premium service for developers. Just like other AWS services, Sumerian is bare-bones, gives enough to get going. Rodin, on the other hand, is a premium service for developers, you pay more, and with it you get:

  • A full stack — the most powerful library, IDE, modules, heroku style boilerplate, and across the board extensibility.
  • A Deliverability standpoint — Support, you can actually call us, we have a whole team who will go to battle for you, whether freemium or legitimate client.

4. Rodin is a platform for expansive solutions. Rodin enables developers to build tools that can be used to further enhance platforms like Sumerian and deliver other services for the likes of A-Frame, ReactVR, etc.

Sumerian is the equivalent of Wix.com for the VR/AR space.

Coexistence instead of competition

It is also necessary to re-visit Amazon’s history in penetrating emerging markets and it’s willingness/tendency not be super competitive. Let’s take SendGrid’s example and apply it in reverse. Amazon released a product called SES, which essentially enabled the same functionalities as SendGrid. It was bare-bones and required lot’s of development resources to integrate and provide practical functionality. What this did for SendGrid is give it the necessary exposure and validation it needed and further help cement its positioning as a premium service — you pay and it just works and if it doesn’t, you have immediate access for support from its agile team. And now, three years later, Amazon is collaborating with SendGrid to power it’s SES service.

Both Rodin and Sumerian are on the same horizontal, but they don’t actually compete with each other.

Sumerian, on the other hand, provides a bare bones approach for designers, developers, and the like —no coding necessary to reap the benefits from having a VR/AR experience. Both Rodin and Sumerian are on the same horizontal, but they don’t actually compete with each other, as they are targeting different use cases and different segments of the market. SendGrid and SES were targeting a similar user base, but the similarities can be extended to Amazon’s approach to the VR/AR scene in reversed product roles.

A similar situation is emerging with Amazon’s interaction with the AI/ML ecosystem. Even though it has it’s own AI/ML program, they just announced an AI/ML competency for startups to partner and collaborate together in defining the market (with the eventual goal that all that will be hosted on AWS, of course).

Sumerian is user friendly and easy to use, is for simple experiences, and for everyone. Rodin is user friendly and easy to use, is for developing heavy-back-end, both consumer and enterprise level apps/tools, and is for developers.

With most tools, products, and platforms on the VR/AR creation market you need to have specialized skillsets and lots of resources to build anything practical. Most products are something similar to Tensor flow, where you need to be an actual data-scientist to use it — similar to VR/AR, where you need to be an actual 3D developer with a large team of specialists to actually create anything. Sumerian is user friendly and easy to use, is for simple experiences, and for everyone. Rodin is user friendly and easy to use, is for developing heavy back-end, both consumer and enterprise level apps/tools, and is for developers.

Final notes

On a romantic note — we are excited about the team behind Sumerian, in part based on the name they chose. We started Rodin to build the tools that will enable us to re-define our communication tools by creating an evolved universal human alphabet. One capable of accelerating the densification of the emotional exchange rate between humans. That’s the reason we chose Rodin as our name, as we are sculpting a more complete expression of our experiences; we experience and create with our senses and firstly with our hands.

Amazon Sumerian is the tablet and Rodin is the tool (chisel) by which this new language is sculpted with.

“Sumerian writing, while proven to not be the oldest example of writing on earth, is considered to be a great milestone in the development of humanity’s ability to not only create historical records but also in creating pieces of literature, both in the form of poetic epics and stories as well as prayers and laws.” Now we are on the dawn of enabling the emergence of universal human alphabet — understood wholly, infused with empathy, and sculpted physically — where experiences are sculpted to represent ideas. Amazon Sumerian is the tablet and Rodin is the tool (chisel) by which this new language is sculpted with.

About Rodin

Rodin is a web environment for easily building and deploying VR experiences. It’s online editor enables users to create any kind of virtual space (rooms, landing pages, venues) with JavaScript, or by using basic drag-and-drop tools and templates.

Once an experience has been developed with Rodin, it can be downloaded as an installation package for any VR platform and instantly deployed. What’s great is that there is no need to re-publish an app, because it will be instantly updated whenever revised code is published.

Start building VR experience with Rodin: https://rodin.io/

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