Amazon Web Services quietly forms a mixed reality team, but what is it building?

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Amazon is building a new “two pizza team” within Amazon Web Services focused on mixed-reality technology, another sign that the cloud powerhouse is expanding its reach and branching out into new areas.

Kyle Roche, general manager of mixed reality for Amazon Web Services. (Photo Via LinkedIn)

AWS isn’t talking publicly about the initiative, but a job posting for a software engineer sheds some light on the team’s goals. The posting says the company is “building a set of services, and platform to bring AWS and Amazon into the world of Mixed Reality.”

The company wants engineers with experience in “Computer Vision, 3D objects, rendering and data storage by designing, developing and testing software solutions.” The posting further states that “applications would include real-time 3D modeling, image and video stream processing all within a scalable distributed environment.”

The posting calls the group a “true start-up within AWS (a real two pizza team).” The two-pizza term goes back to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and his well-known rule that any team or meeting that can’t be fed with two pizzas is too large.

The mixed reality effort is led by the founders of 2lemetry, an Internet of Things startup that Amazon acquired back in 2015. Kyle Roche, co-founder and CEO of 2lemetry, is now the general manager of the AWS mixed reality team, according to his LinkedIn bio, and he has been involved in the project for about a year. He is joined by fellow co-founder Chris Chiappone, who is now software development manager for AWS mixed reality. Both were working on IoT projects for AWS before moving over to focus on mixed reality.

We’ve reached out to AWS and Roche, and we will update this post if we hear back.

Chris Chiappone,
software development manager at Amazon Web Services. (Photo Via LinkedIn)

The posting is looking for people with gameplay and game engine skills. That fits with some of the LinkedIn profiles associated with AWS and mixed reality. For example, AWS Mixed Reality Creative Director David Chiapperino was previously senior product manager for Amazon’s animation team, which launched the Lumberyard game engine. Lumberyard, which allows developers to integrate deeply with AWS and Twitch in building their own games, supports various virtual reality platforms.

AWS’ mixed reality push is another example of the organization’s move up the stack, expanding beyond its original focus on cloud storage and computing to offer its own cloud products and services. This trend appears to be at the heart of AWS’ lawsuit against former vice president Gene Farrell, who left to join Smartsheet earlier this month. The lawsuit points to the possibility that AWS is developing something that will compete directly with Smartsheet’s suite of workplace collaboration tools.

Amazon Chime, a workplace communications tool released earlier this year is another example of AWS’ evolving priorities. In that case Amazon acquired a company — Biba Systems — and used the knowledge and technology to build out its own products.

AWS isn’t the only Amazon arm investing in virtual/mixed reality. Amazon Studios, the company’s movie and television producing arm, has job postings for program managers and senior developers in Santa Monica, Calif., focused on mixed reality. From the posting: “The Mixed Reality team is focused on defining next generation platforms and content. Apps, filmmaking, TV, games, storytelling, art, engineering, analytics; it all comes together on our team.”

It is unclear if the AWS and Amazon Studios mixed reality efforts are connected in any way.

For those wondering, nothing in the job postings or the LinkedIn profiles of those working on mixed reality suggests that Amazon has immediate plans for any kind of virtual reality hardware device.

That Amazon is going into mixed/virtual/augmented reality is not a huge surprise, as many of its fellow tech giants are also investing heavily in the concept. Most of Amazon’s contemporaries are focusing on building their own headsets and other VR hardware in addition to software platforms.

Microsoft’s HoloLens is definitely on the high end of the range, and it is still available only to developers and big companies. Microsoft is also working with third-party hardware partners on lower-cost consumer-focused Windows Mixed Reality headsets to be released this holiday season.

Both Facebook, which owns Oculus, and Google have their own virtual reality initiatives and hardware. Apple was late to the mixed reality party, but it dedicated a significant portion of this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference to the concept, and could be poised to take the lead.