Animation & Timeline for AR with Amazon Sumerian (Part 5)

So far, we have set up a fully functional scene for our ambitious Augmented Reality project. The overall idea: a host avatar explains different 3D objects, which are placed in the user’s surroundings. Only one piece is missing – an animation.

In this part of the article series, we’ll look at three possible ways to animate objects in Amazon Sumerian: timelines, “classic” continuous animations and tween actions as part of state machines in behaviors. All three have different advantages and use cases. Thus, it’s important that you can decide which approach is best for each situation.

This is a capture of the current prototype and what it’ll look like, captured from a phone in Augmented Reality.

Animations in the Digital Healthcare Explained prototype, captured in Augmented Reality running on a Google Pixel with ARCore

Animation Actions

Let’s get started with the tween actions. In the previous parts, we’ve already integrated several state machines and actions into our scene. This approach ties in perfectly well into the same approach.

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User Interaction & Messages in Amazon Sumerian (Part 4)

Messages for User Interaction with the Host in Amazon Sumerian

Learn how to let individual parts of your AR / VR app communicate with each other. This part of the tutorial lets the user trigger actions within your scene. For example: the host starts explaining an object when you tap on it. Internally, the connection is established via messages. It’s a vital concept to understand on your journey to real-life AR apps with Amazon Sumerian.

The guide builds upon the project created in the previous parts of the article: 1 – general setup, 2 – speech & gestures, 3 – 3D Models & AR Anchors.

App Scenario: “Digital Healthcare Explained”

After the basic components of the scene are in place, it’s time to wire everything together. We want to achieve two things:

  • Chain sequences together to make one thing happen after another
  • Let the user interact with entities in the scene

Our demo app informs the user about different healthcare topics. The following chart summarizes its flow:

Overall concept of the "Digital Healthcare Explained" app.
Overall concept of the “Digital Healthcare Explained” app.

At first, the host greets the user. Then, several 3D models representing different healthcare topics appear around the host. The user selects one of these topics by tapping the respective entity. As we’re creating an Augmented Reality app, the user can walk around in the room to discover different topics.

Once the user tapped on one of these topics, the host starts explaining. Specific animations for the selected object start, which help understanding the topic.

After the host finished the explanation, the user can select the next topic.

Messages: Communication within the Scene

Events are broadcasted through messages. These are simply user-defined strings. In Sumerian, they’re often referred to as “channels”.

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Custom 3D Models & AR Anchors in Amazon Sumerian (Part 3)

Integrate the real world into your Amazon Sumerian AR app. Plus: place virtual content into the user’s environment. Learn how to anchor multiple 3D models that have a fixed spatial relationship.

This article builds on the foundations of the AR project setup in part 1, as well as extending the host with speech & gestures in part 2.

Import Custom 3D Models

While Sumerian comes with a few ready-made assets, you will often need to add custom 3D models to your scene as well. Currently, Sumerian supports importing two common file types: .fbx (also used by Unity and Autodesk software) and .obj (very wide-spread and common format).

Simply drag & drop such a model from your computer to your assets panel. Alternatively, you can also use the “Import Assets” button in the top bar and then use “Browse” to choose the file to upload.

Where to get these 3D models? Either you create them yourself using Blender, Maya or any other tool. Alternatively, go to great free portals like Google Poly and Microsoft Remix 3D. These objects are usually low-poly and therefore well-suited for mobile phones.

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Speech & Gestures with Amazon Sumerian (Part 2)

Configuring speech for the Amazon Sumerian Host

In the first part of the article series, we set up an Augmented Reality app with a host (= avatar). Now, we’ll dive deeper and integrate host interactions. To make the character more life-like, it should look at you. We’ll assign speech files and ensure that the gestures of the character match the spoken content.

But before we set out on these tasks, let’s take a minute to look at some vital concepts of Amazon Sumerian.

Behaviors, State Machines & Events

Unless you want your app to just show a static scene, you’ll need to integrate actions. The trigger for an action could react to interactive user inputs. Alternatively, you define what happens sequentially – e.g., first a new object appears in the scene, then the host avatar explains it.

Technically, this is solved using a state machine. Each entity can have multiple different states. A behavior is a collection of these states. States transition from one to another based on actions & their events (= interactions or timing).

Sumerian State Machines - Behaviors contain states, which have actions that can trigger events, which lead to transitions to other states.
Sumerian State Machines – Behaviors contain states, which have actions that can trigger events, which lead to transitions to other states.

Each state has a name: e.g., “Waiting”, “Moving”, “Talking”. In addition, each state typically has one or more actions: e.g., waiting for five seconds, animating the movement of the entity or playing a sound file. Sumerian comes with pre-defined actions. Additionally, you can provide your own JavaScript code for custom or more complex tasks.

These actions can trigger events. Some examples: the wait time of 5 seconds is over, the movement is completed or the sound file finished playing. Using a transition, you can then transition to a different state.

By combining several states together with transitions, you can make entities interact with the user or perform other tasks to ensure your scene is dynamic.

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Amazon Sumerian & Augmented Reality (Part 1)

Amazon Sumerian Host, placed in the real world with Google ARCore

Many AR / VR use cases involve virtual trainings or guide topics. With Amazon Sumerian, you can quickly create cross-platform apps for these scenarios. The main advantage is the large amount of ready-made content: avatars (called hosts) and virtual environment templates. Through the direct integration of Amazon Web Services (AWS), it’s easy to make the host speak to the user – including lip sync, gestures and even conversations through bots.

Of course, you can create similar solutions with Unity. But Sumerian requires far less prior 3D software knowledge and is therefore ideal for smaller projects as well as prototypes. The interface and generic setup is still quite similar to Unity; so it’s a good evolution to switch to Unity – if needed – after you’ve created your first few apps and services with Amazon Sumerian.

Additionally, right now Amazon is hosting an AR / VR challenge with lots of prizes for the best apps of various categories. So, it’s a great time to explore Sumerian!

What is Amazon Sumerian?

Essentially, Sumerian is a browser-based 3D editing platform. It allows developing for most AR and VR platforms, including Oculus, Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, as well as the browser, Google ARCore and Apple ARKit.

Behind the scenes, it’s based on WebXR. That’s the evolution of WebVR, which was mainly targeting VR headsets. With WebXR, you can access sound, controllers and also anchor objects to the real environment in Mixed Reality scenarios.

Amazon Sumerian Account Setup

First, you need to set up your Amazon account. Amazon offers an AWS free tier, which gives you access to many services and provides some usage quotas for free for the first 12 months. Afterwards, you can still continue using selected services for free. Note that Sumerian is not part of these, but 12 months provides enough time to test & develop your service.

Continue reading “Amazon Sumerian & Augmented Reality (Part 1)”