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Android App Development AR / VR Digital Healthcare

User Interaction & Messages in Amazon Sumerian (Part 4)

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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Android App Development AR / VR Digital Healthcare

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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Android App Development AR / VR Digital Healthcare

Speech & Gestures with Amazon Sumerian (Part 2)

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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Android App Development AR / VR Digital Healthcare

Amazon Sumerian & Augmented Reality (Part 1)

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.

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AR / VR HoloLens Image Processing

Basics of AR: SLAM – Simultaneous Localization and Mapping

In the first part, we took a look at how an algorithm identifies keypoints in camera frames. These are the base for tracking & recognizing the environment.

For Augmented Reality, the device has to know more: its 3D position in the world. It calculates this through the spatial relationship between itself and multiple keypoints. This process is called “Simultaneous Localization and Mapping” – SLAM for short.

Sensors for Perceiving the World

The high-level view: when you first start an AR app using Google ARCore, Apple ARKit or Microsoft Mixed Reality, the system doesn’t know much about the environment. It starts processing data from various sources – mostly the camera. To improve accuracy, the device combines data from other useful sensors like the accelerometer and the gyroscope.

Based on this data, the algorithm has two aims:

  1. Build a map of the environment
  2. Locate the device within that environment
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AR / VR HoloLens Image Processing

Basics of AR: Anchors, Keypoints & Feature Detection

Creating apps that work well with Augmented Reality requires some background knowledge of the image processing algorithms that work behind the scenes. One of the most fundamental concepts involves anchors. These rely on keypoints and their descriptors, detected in the recording of the real world.

Anchor Virtual Objects to the Real World

AR development APIs hide much of the complexity. As a developer, you simply anchor virtual objects to the world. This ensures that the hologram stays glued to the physical location where you put it.

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Events HoloLens

Mixed Reality @ Microsoft Insider Dev Tour

On June 20th, the Microsoft Insider Dev Tour will come to Vienna, Austria. It’s a world-wide event series for developers, organized by Microsoft together with Microsoft Developer MVPs.

You’ll learn about the latest trends for developers – including artificial intelligence, progressive web apps and more. Of course, Mixed Reality is also on the agenda!

As a Microsoft MVP for Windows Development, I’ll take over the Mixed Reality session. You’ll see live demos of getting started with both VR headsets, as well as the Microsoft HoloLens. 150 attendees have signed up – so it’ll certainly be a great event!

In addition, Microsoft has released amazing hands-on labs for everyone to follow up and dive deeper into the content presented at the sessions. The Mixed Reality Lab includes controllers, spatial sound and spatial mapping. It’s a great way to get started with some of the most exciting features of MR. Check it out!

 

Categories
Android App Development AR / VR

Remote ARCore with Unity’s Experimental ARInterface

Overall, the AR ecosystem is still small. Nevertheless, it’s fragmented. Google develops ARCore, Apple creates ARKit and Microsoft is working on the Mixed Reality Toolkit. Fortunately, Unity started unifying these APIs with the ARInterface.

At Unite Austin, two of the Unity engineers introduced the new experimental ARInterface. In November 2017, they released it to the public via GitHub. It looks like this will be integrated into Unity 2018 – the new features of Unity 2018.1 include “AR Crossplatfom Kit (ARCore/ARKit API)“.

Remote Testing of AR Apps

The traditional mobile AR app development cycle includes compiling and deploying apps to a real device. That takes a long time and is tedious for quick testing iterations.

A big advantage of ARKit so far has been the ARKit Unity Remote feature. The iPhone runs a simple “tracking” app. It transmits its captured live data to the PC. Your actual AR app is running directly in the Unity Editor on the PC, based on the data it gets from the device. Through this approach, you can run the app by simply pressing the Play-button in Unity, without native compilation.

This is similar to the Holographic Emulation for the Microsoft HoloLens, which has been available for Unity for some time.

The great news is that the new Unity ARInterface finally adds a similar feature to Google ARCore: ARRemoteInterface. It’s available cross-platform for ARKit and ARCore.

ARInterface Demo App

In this article, I’ll explain the steps to get AR Remote running on Google ARCore. For reference: “Pirates Just AR” also posted a helpful short video on YouTube.

Categories
Android App Development AR / VR

Augmented Reality Christmas Tree with Google ARCore Developer Preview 2 – in 5 Minutes

We don’t have a Christmas tree in our apartment. But in today’s world, this is what Augmented Reality is for, right? Therefore, I decided to create an AR Christmas Tree in 5 minutes. This also gave me an opportunity to check out the new Google ARCore Developer Preview 2.

Christmas Tree 3D Model

First off, you need a 3D model of a Christmas tree. Two of the most accessible sources are Google Poly and Microsoft Remix 3D. Sticking to models created directly by Google and Microsoft, these two are the choices:

Christmas Tree by Poly by Google
Christmas Tree by Poly by Google

Categories
Android App Development AR / VR Digital Healthcare

Real-Time Light Estimation with Google ARCore

ARCore has an excellent feature – light estimation. The ARCore SDK estimates the global lighting, which you can use as input for your own shaders to make the virtual objects fit in better with the captured real world. In this article, I’m taking a closer look at how the light estimation works in the current ARCore preview SDK.

Note: this article is based on the ARCore developer preview 1. Some details changed in the developer preview 2 – although the generic process is still similar.