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Amazon’s Sumerian: How Will It Affect Real Estate


Amazon’s Sumerian: How Will It Affect Real Estate

Every aspect of the property sector evolves as new technologies get introduced. Architects, engineers, and property developers must adapt to these new technologies. This article examines Amazon’s Sumerian platform. It also looks at the general trend of VR in property development.

For property developers and related professionals, every new technology presents an opportunity. Take digital design software as an example. Software packages have evolved since the introduction of computer-aided design (CAD). Today, such software allows for the creation of photorealistic structures. It can even use the data that you enter to highlight issues with models.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is another new concept that has changed the industry. A data-driven design method, BIM improves accuracy and project sustainability. It’s not a requirement to use BIM to design a structure. But it saves a lot of time and money if everybody in the development project commits to it.

And that’s the key with new technologies. If they save time and money, they achieve wider use.

This brings us to the subject of virtual reality (VR). Many point to VR as the latest technology to revolutionise the industry. Using VR, you can help clients to visualise your ideas like never before. This has led to many developers and architects using it to attract business. If it catches on, new architects, engineers, and developers will need to use it to keep pace with their competitors.

This makes VR an essential teaching topic for today’s universities. In fact, the technology is so popular that even some of the world’s largest companies have taken notice. Amazon is one of the latest and its Sumerian platform presents a range of possibilities. This article digs deeper into virtual reality and Sumerian. It also examines how VR may affect the property sector in the future.

What is Virtual Reality?


Though it seems like an emerging technology, the concept behind VR has existed for a long time. Some even point to the panoramic paintings as using the general concept. Such paintings absorb that viewer in a 360-degree mural that encompasses their entire field of vision. As a result, they immerse the viewer entirely. Some draw parallels between this centuries-old painting style and modern VR.

In terms of actual technology, the Sensorama is commonly seen as the starting point for VR. Developed by Morton Heilig, the Sensorama offered a completely immersive experience. It was essentially a large arcade cabinet. Users slotted their head into the cabinet and found sights and sounds completely surrounding them. The cabinet had a 3D display and stereo speakers. It even featured a vibrating chair and could generate smells to go along with the images on screen.

This brings us back to the question of what virtual reality is. It’s a way to showcase a form of media in a way that completely immerses the viewer. For films and games, it allows people to enter themselves into the fictional worlds created for them. When it comes to property, VR also has its uses. A property developer can use virtual reality design software to create 3D models of their models. They can then allow people to explore these models using VR equipment.

VR allows for a level of immersion and interactivity that you don’t get from a computer screen. But it also requires the correct hardware to do so. A computer that’s powerful enough to run VR applications is just the starting point. You also need a headset, sensors, and a method for controlling the user’s avatar in the virtual world.

The key with VR is that it allows people to simulate real-world experiences. In the case of property developers, you can create a virtual representation of a property that you intend to build. A potential client can then explore this virtual world. More advanced applications even allow them to do things like flip light switches and interact with digital furniture. It’s all about visualisation. It helps you to help your clients see what’s going on in your head.

As a result, VR may become a key marketing tool for building industry professionals. The technology has also attracted the attention of some big guns in worldwide business. Amazon has thrown its hat into the mix with the introduction of its Sumerian platform.

What is Sumerian?


In November 2017, Amazon released Sumerian as a development kit. The platform allows users to create virtual reality and augmented reality applications. The key is that it takes a lot of complexity out of the process. Amazon intends for the platform to make VR as accessible as possible to those who want to use it.

The platform comes with an array of features that make it appealing to those in the industry. Perhaps the most important of these is the elimination of coding requirements. You don’t need to be a programming expert to make use of what Sumerian has to offer. This makes it instantly appealing to digital designers. The need to code is a barrier that many digital design software developers try to overcome. Amazon’s platform promises to offer that same code-less usability as these software packages.

That’s not to say the platform requires no expertise at all. Users still have to learn how to script virtual events and put their models together. But they don’t have to hard code anything into the platform.

To aid in this, Sumerian also offers a catalogue of pre-created objects. Users can access this in-depth library to create VR environments. They can then view these using any hardware that supports the WebVR and WebGL platforms. This includes iOS devices, as well as both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

You’re also not limited to the platform’s own catalogue. You’re able to download libraries of materials from third-party distributors too. Plus, the platform allows you to import objects that you’ve created yourself into it. As a result, Sumerian offers existing property development professionals an access point into the VR space. Of course, it may also be able to do the same for students. Those already familiar with digital design may also find it useful for quickly bringing their work into the 3D space.

Beyond that, the platform also uses Amazon’s Polly and Lex technologies. Polly allows people to convert text into voice. It’s essentially an AI that uses deep learning to replicate human speaking patterns. The end result is a life-like human voice. Lex has similar text-to-speech abilities. However, it also allows for the creation of conversational interfaces. In the context of Sumerian, you could use Lex to create voice-activated commands for a VR model.

To summarise, Amazon aims to make VR model creation a more universal concept with this new platform. It hopes to make VR design easier while incorporating AI and augmented reality into the package.

How You May Use Sumerian

The above provides some insight into how people may use Sumerian. The platform may offer property developers and building professionals an easier route into VR. The platform may also help students develop early VR skills. It could serve as an introduction before moving onto more advanced software packages.

Think of it like a content management system (CMS) for a website. A CMS provides you with the tools you need to build your own website. You have templates and can adjust the site as you see fit. You use a set of common tools to create a unique product. All of the while, you don’t have to manipulate a single line of code. Instead, you make changes in the CMS, which then handles the coding for you. Anybody who has used WordPress before understands the general idea.

You can think of Sumerian as the WordPress for the development of VR models. Like with WordPress, you still have to learn about the platform to use it. Also like WordPress, you can integrate materials from third-party developers. This improves what you produce using the platform.

Both remove the technical barrier required to produce something. WordPress, or any CMS, allows non-coders to build a website. Sumerian does the same for VR models.

So, which industries are most likely to make use of this technology? The simple answer is that it has uses for every industry. An employer could use the platform to create VR employee training programs. In fact, it could prove to be a useful educational tool for a variety of industries. Retail business could use it to enhance virtual shopping experiences too. And any developer who wants to create software for VR devices could use it. Perhaps we'll see independent videogame developers using it to create VR titles on small budgets.

But it’s in the property and building sectors that Sumerian stands to make some of its biggest waves. Every aspect of these industries relies on some level of “wow” factor to make sales. Architects need their models to impress their clients. Property developers need their models to convince investors. Even estate agents could use the technology to sell properties. For one, it would make the creation of virtual tours much simpler and cheaper.

The platform may become as successful as other “universal” software packages. That’s what Sumerian aims to be. It’s a universal VR tool for use across every industry imaginable.

The Future of VR in Property Development


The above touches on some of the benefits that VR may have on property development and the real estate sector. But let’s look at the possible applications in some more detail:

Virtual Tours. This is the most obvious use of VR in the building and property sectors. Virtual tours help those at all levels of both sectors. Developers and architects can use them to help clients and investors visualise their ideas. Instead of guiding people through static 3D models, they can immerse them in an interactive virtual world. The benefit of this is that it removes the technical barrier that causes issues in some business to client relationships. Moreover, such tours would help clients to visualise buildings that have yet to begin construction.

We may also see estate agents use virtual tours to help them sell properties. Over time, these tours may become advanced enough to replace photographs and physical viewings.

Property Staging. Selling a property involves making it look as attractive as possible to a potential buyer. Estate agents often use something called staging to achieve this. They’ll organise rooms to emphasise the most impressive features of the building. This technique ensures the buyer leaves feeling impressed.

Developers and agents could use these same concepts in their virtual models. As well as creating virtual representations of buildings, they could stage them. Modern digital design software allows for the creation of photorealistic objects. You could use these to virtually furnish a 3D model to make it look as attractive as possible. This would prove particularly useful for existing properties. An estate agent would no longer need to physically stage a property. This saves a lot of time, cost, and manual effort.

V-Commerce. This is something that’s likely to benefit interior designers more than building professionals. But it’s still worth a mention. V-Commerce would allow VR users to buy the objects they see in the virtual world you immerse them in. For example, they may see a virtual sofa that they like the look of. You can use V-Commerce to allow them to buy the real version through the software.

Those with virtual reality design software expertise could use this to their advantage. They could team up with interior designers to help them bring their products into the VR space.


VR is likely to have a huge effect on the property and building sectors in the coming years. Amazon may spearhead this shift if Sumerian offers everything that the company claims it does.

One thing is for certain – VR is here to stay. This means that universities need to start incorporating VR design into their courses. This presents a problem for many universities. Their tutors simply don’t have the expertise required to create effective courses in the subject.

Archistar Academy offers that expertise. We’ve developed an array of courses that cover the entire digital design software including designing for VR. Moreover, our courses constantly evolve. As new technologies emerge, we create courses that achieve the learning outcomes that you’re looking for.

Do you want to find out more? Contact an Archistar Academy consultant today for a free trial of the Archistar Academy platform.


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Posted on 20 Jan 2020

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