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Khronos launches certification for 3D-animated online shopping

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Khronos launches certification for 3D-animated online shopping

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The Khronos Group, an open consortium of companies creating graphics and compute interoperability standards, has unveiled a way to certify 3D-animation viewers created by different companies for online shopping.

Before your eyes glaze over, this kind of technology is a stepping stone for the metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One.

3D Commerce Viewer

The group is releasing the 3D Commerce Viewer Certification Program. 3D viewers are software engines that enable users to display and interact with 3D models.

The viewers are used by retailers, social media sites, and brands to create experiences on ecommerce storefronts, search engines, ad platforms, and in native applications. And so they enable online shopping in a very big way, said Shrenik Sadalgi, 3D Commerce Working Group chair and director of research and development for Wayfair Next at Wayfair, in an interview with GamesBeat.

The Viewer Certification Program enables 3D viewers across the industry to demonstrate that they can accurately and consistently display 3D products, clearing the way for reliable 3D and AR-powered shopping across multiple platforms and devices.

If you think about it, everybody wants to comparison-shop when they go online, but you have to be certain that you’re comparing the same things, said Khronos Group president Neil Trevett in an interview with GamesBeat.

Above: The Khronos Group represents more than 150 companies.

Image Credit: Khronos Group

“We can make it very targeted and suitable for real-time transmission into web browsers and native apps,” said Trevett. “And 3D commerce is one of the beachhead applications that really needs this kind of 3D everywhere.”

Amazon, Babylon.js, CGTrader, Emersya, Epic Games (Unreal Engine), Facebook (Spark AR), Google (<model-viewer> & Scene Viewer), Samsung (Internet Browser on Android), SketchFab, Unity, and UX3D (Gestaltor) have begun the process of certifying their viewers under this new program.

All of these companies have a vested interest in seeing online commerce blossom, and they all have their eyes on the metaverse as well. All told, there are more than 150 companies in the Khronos Group.

Previously, when artists and brands created digital products, they had no guarantee that they would appear consistently on different platforms. A 3D asset, such as a piece of furniture, is created independently from the 3D viewer used to build a consumer experience, and which viewer is used can have a major impact on what the consumer sees. Even with identical viewer settings, a chair might look very different in an ecommerce product listing versus a digital ad that uses a different viewer.

“Commerce seems to be the first vertical that has taken off,” Sadalgi said. “With AR and VR, the commerce use case seems to be a pretty powerful one. And that is driving some of this.”

Aside from online shopping, there are also standards developing for things like animating avatars, or 3D characters, that can be used across multiple applications.

glTF standard

The group has rallied around glTF (or GL Transmission Format), a royalty-free specification for the efficient transmission and loading of 3D scenes and models by engines and applications. glTF minimizes the size of 3D assets and reduces the runtime processing needed to unpack and use them. glTF defines an extensible publishing format that streamlines authoring workflows and interactive services by enabling the interoperable use of 3D content across the industry.

“Over the last few years, glTF has become this lingua franca for 3D to be used everywhere,” Trevett said. “That’s why it has ended up as a Khronos specification, so it’s not controlled by any one company. It’s an open standard under multi-company governance and it is royalty free, just like any other Khronos standard. And that’s why it’s proven to be a valuable building block.”

It’s been a 10-year journey to get here, and gITF does for 3D viewing what JPEG did as a format for viewing photos, Trevett said.

“We had the idea for glTF almost 10 years ago. Version one came out in 2015,” he said. “2.0 came out in 2017. The 3D Commerce Working Group was founded in 2019. And now it’s 2021.”

The Khronos Group’s 3D Commerce Working Group has been striving to solve this and other problems that slow the growth of 3D in retail. The Working Group’s diverse membership includes in-house content creators at major brands like IKEA, Amazon, and Wayfair; 3D ecosystem and platform developers like Google, Microsoft, Adobe, Facebook, Samsung, and Autodesk; and hardware manufacturers like Sony, Intel, Nvidia, and Advanced Micro Devices. They recognize that the solution is to promote not one particular viewer, but to enable consistent performance across all of them.

khronos 2

Above: Wayfair Group is designing furniture using the glTF format.

Image Credit: Khronos Group

“glTF has been a really interesting format for us because it has helped us take our products to end consumers in a very accessible way,” said Sadalgi. “With so many different platforms, glTF has been our go-to format for us to publish content.”

The moment an asset leaves the boundaries of a controlled first-party ecosystem — say, by going from a View-In-Room experience on a known OS on a known set of devices, to running in a 3D product ad on an unfamiliar OS on an unfamiliar device — you have little control over how it looks, Trevett said. He said that 3D virtual products are beginning to accompany every product listing, together with the traditional 2D images. It’s imperative to give content creators an assurance of viewing accuracy inside the 3D Commerce certified ecosystem, enabling consumers to experience a product in a consistent manner, Trevett said.

“If a consumer is searching for a red couch on Google, they start seeing search results,” Sadalgi said. “They see multiple couches from different retailers. When you see these red couches on a platform like Google, it’s displaying on a device that you have no control over. As a retailer, when I built this red couch, and I gave it to Google, I have no control over how Google is going to show it to an end customer. And so just like every retailer, we want to all agree on how it should look and be rendered.”

The certification process

The Khronos 3D Commerce Viewer Certification Program is open to any organization that wishes to certify that its viewers can accurately display 3D assets used in ecommerce. In order to become certified, vendors must demonstrate that a 3D asset will look the same in their viewer versus another certified viewer. Potential Certificants use a publicly available test package containing glTF assets to generate test images. The Khronos 3D Commerce Working Group reviews these images, using the Khronos glTF Sample Viewer as a baseline. Organizations sign a certification agreement and pay an annual fee ($1,500 for Khronos members, $2,500 for non-members) to make an unlimited number of submissions.

Successfully reviewed submissions and viewers will be added to a public Certification Registry. Certificants can use the 3D Commerce Certified trademark in association with their certified viewers. The Khronos Group is calling upon viewer and tool vendors across the 3D ecosystem to join the growing list of organizations in the pipeline to be certified.

The group has statements of support from Autodesk, CGTrader, Emersya, Epic Games, Facebook, Invrsion, Microsoft, Samsung, Shopify, SuperDNA 3D, Unity, UX3D, Wayfair, and Vntana.

The whole effort is reminiscent of the task Nvidia faced in creating the Omniverse, a simulated testing ground that the company bills as a metaverse for engineers. Trevett said that Omniverse is working on glTF import/export, and so a collaborative design environment in Omniverse would be a great way to design 3D products. He said that, in general, the glTF ecosystem is working to be aligned with authoring formats such as USD and MaterialX for a seamless design to deployment workflow. USD is a Pixar-created open standard for the interchange 3D assets.

Trevett noted that USD addresses different parts of the overall problem than glTF.

“They’re both file formats, but they’re targeted at very different problems in the space, and they are very complementary,” Trevett said.

As for the metaverse, Trevett said, “It’s going to be many different things to many different people, and it’s not going to be Ready Player One.”

GamesBeat

GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

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Lucidworks: Chatbots and recommendations boost online brand loyalty

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Who is loyal

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Pandemic-related shutdowns led consumers to divert the bulk of their shopping to online — and many of those shoppers are now hesitant about returning to stores as businesses begin to open back up. A recent survey of 800 consumers conducted by cloud company Lucidworks found that 59% of shoppers plan to either avoid in-person shopping as much as possible,  or visit in-person stores less often than before the pandemic.

Above: Shoppers across the U.S. and U.K. agree that high-quality products, personalized recommendations, and excellent customer service are the top three reasons they’re brand-loyal.

Image Credit: Lucidworks

As the world stabilizes, shoppers want brands to provide a multi-faceted shopping experience — expanded chatbot capabilities, diverse recommendations, and personalized experiences that take into account personal preferences and history, Lucidworks found in its study. More than half of shoppers in the survey, 55%, said they use a site’s chatbot on every visit. American shoppers use chatbots more than their counterparts in the United Kingdom, at 70%.

The majority of shoppers, 70%, use chatbots for customer service, and 53% said they want a chatbot to help them find specific products or check product compatibility. A little less than half, or 48%, said they use chatbots to find more information about a product, and 42% use chatbots to find policies such as shipping information and how to get refunds.

A quarter of shoppers will leave the website to seek information elsewhere if the chatbot doesn’t give them the answer. Brands that deploy chatbots capable of going beyond basic FAQs and can perform product and content discovery will provide the well-rounded chatbot experience shoppers expect, Lucidworks said.

Respondents also pointed to the importance of content recommendations. The survey found that almost a third of shoppers said they find recommendations for “suggested content” useful, and 61% of shoppers like to do research via reviews on the brand’s website where they’ll be purchasing from. A little over a third — 37% — of shoppers use marketplaces such as Amazon, Google Shopping, and eBay for their research.

Brands should try to offer something for every step in the shopping journey, from research to purchase to support, to keep shoppers on their sites longer. How online shopping will look in coming years is being defined at this very moment as the world reopens. Brands that are able to understand a shopper’s goal in the moment and deliver a connected experience that understands who shoppers are and what they like are well-positioned for the future, Lucidworks said.

Lucidworks used a self-serve survey tool, Pollfish, in late May 2021 to survey 800 consumers over the age of 18—400 in the U.K. and 400 in the U.S.—to understand how shoppers interact with chatbots, product and content recommendations, where they prefer to do research, and plans for future in-store shopping.

Read the full U.S./U.K. Consumer Survey Report from Lucidworks.

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Breakroom teams up with High Fidelity to bring 3D audio to online meetings

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Breakroom teams up with High Fidelity to bring 3D audio to online meetings

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Social meeting space Breakroom has integrated High Fidelity‘s 3D audio into its 3D virtual world for social and business events.

The deal is a convergence of some virtual world pioneers who have made their mark on the development of virtual life. Philip Rosedale is the CEO of High Fidelity, and he also launched Second Life in 2003. And Sine Wave Entertainment, the creator of Breakroom, got its start as a content brand in Second Life before it spun out to create its own virtual meeting spaces for real world events.

Adam Frisby, chief product officer and cofounder of Sine Wave, said in our interview conducted inside Breakroom that the High Fidelity spatial audio will help Breakroom create a triple-A quality experience in a virtual world.

“The real benefit of having 3D audio in a virtual world like this is you can have lots of conversations going on simultaneously,” said Frisby. “3D audio is the only way to replicate the real-world experience in an online environment. You can have a 150-person conference and end up with 10 groups of people talking at the same time. That has helped us with engagement.”

Above: Breakroom lets an event have dozens of simultaneous conversations where people don’t talk over each other, thanks to High Fidelity.

Image Credit: Sine Wave

Most online events get engagement times of 20 or 30 minutes. But Breakroom’s average events, ranging from 600 to 1,000 attendees, have engagement times of an hour and 40 minutes, Frisby said.

Sine Wave’s Breakroom draws heavily on lessons learned in Second Life to create a frictionless, mass market, user-friendly virtual world.

“You can hear everything better with High Fidelity,” said Rosedale, in our interview in Breakroom. “Breakroom combines low-latency server-side video and spatial audio in a way that lets you hold an event like it’s in the real world.”

High Fidelity is a real-time communications company. Its mission is to build technologies that power more human experiences in today’s digital world. The company’s patented spatial audio technology, originally developed for its VR software platform, adds immersive, high-quality voice chat to any application — for groups of any size. You can really tell how close you are to someone in a High Fidelity space when they talk to you, as voices become fainter the farther away they are.

“We are super excited about this general direction and we wound up building the audio subsystem and extracting that first,” Rosedale said. “It works well where there is no possibility of face-to-face meetings.”

breakroom 3

Above: I could hear Philip Rosedale’s voice clearly in this conversation in Breakroom.

Image Credit: Sine Wave

Spatial audio in a 3D virtual world helps encourage spontaneous conversations into a fun, productive setting, in a way that flatscreen video calls and webinars simply can’t match, Frisby said. It’s easy to tell in Breakroom who is speaking to you, and from what direction.

It took me a little while to figure out how to unmute my voice. Rosedale was jumping up and down while we were talking.

“It’s all remote rendered. And that means that we can bring people in on a variety of platforms,” Frisby said. “No matter what your target hardware is, you can actually get in here and still get good high fidelity. It’s a good quality 3D rendering experience here regardless of what device you’re on.”

I asked Rosedale if he could hear me chewing lettuce, which sounded very loud on my headsets. But he said no. It definitely helps if you have good headsets with 3D audio.

Breakroom is being used by organizations like Stanford University, the United Nations, and The Economist. Breakroom runs on any device with a Chrome browser, offering good 3D graphics and audio quality, with no installation required.

Frisby said that Breakroom is also a way for companies to enable remote workers to gather and meet each other in more relaxed environments as if it were an intermediate space between online-only environments and going back to work in offices.

breakroom 4

Above: Breakroom and High Fidelity are enabling conferences with spatial audio.

Image Credit: Sine Wave

Its full suite of communication tools includes voice chat, instant messenger, and in-world email. It has video conferencing, media sharing, and desktop sharing tools. It has a diverse range of fully customizable avatars and scenes. You can get around just by pointing and clicking on the environment.

It also has event management tools to facilitate conversation and agenda flow, branded interactive exhibition stands, and private meeting rooms, available for rent by sponsors. It has environments including dance clubs, beach and mountain retreats, casual games, quiz shows, and live music/comedy shows. It has an integrated shop where brands can upload and sell their content to customers for real cash.

It gives you the ability to seamlessly license and import any item from the Unity Asset Store (Sine Wave is a verified partner of Unity). The iOS and Android version of Breakroom is in closed beta and Breakroom for consoles and the Oculus Quest 2 coming soon. It has LinkedIn and Eventbrite integration, including ticket sales. It also has a self-serve portal for customers to quickly customize and configure their organizations’ Breakroom, as well as sub-licensing agreements which enable Breakroom customers to host and monetize events and experiences to their own customer base.

Frisby said it has been a technical challenge so that people don’t get kicked out of the room, but his team has managed to refine the technology during the pandemic. He thinks conferences are great use cases for the technology because so many people come together simultaneously and push the tech to the limit.

As for High Fidelity, Rosedale believes that the education market will come around, and the whole world will eventually move to better spatial experiences.

GamesBeat

GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

How will you do that? Membership includes access to:

  • Newsletters, such as DeanBeat
  • The wonderful, educational, and fun speakers at our events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Special members-only interviews, chats, and “open office” events with GamesBeat staff
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Moderne helps companies automate their code migration and fixes

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uR9EPALJKjI&feature=emb_title

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While every company may well be a software company these days, the software development sphere has evolved greatly over the past decade to get to this stage, with developer operations (DevOps), agile, and cloud-native considerations at the forefront.

Moreover, with APIs and open source software now serving as critical components of most modern software stacks, tracking code changes and vulnerabilities introduced by external developers can be a major challenge. This is something fledgling startup Moderne is setting out to solve with a platform that promises to automatically “fix, upgrade, and secure code” in minutes, including offering support for framework or API migrations and applying CVE (common vulnerabilities and exposures) patches.

The Seattle-based company, which will remain in private beta for the foreseeable future, today announced a $4.7 million seed round of funding to bring its SaaS product to market. The investment was led by True Ventures, with participation from a slew of angel and VC backers, including GitHub CTO Jason Warner; Datadog cofounder and CEO Olivier Pomel; Coverity cofounder Andy Chou; Mango Capital; and Overtime.vc.

Version control

If a third-party API provider or open source framework is updated, with the older version no longer actively supported, companies need to ensure their software remains secure and compliant. “It requires revving dependencies [updating version numbers in configuration files] and changing all the call sites for the APIs that have changed — it’s tedious, repetitive, but hasn’t been automated,” Moderne CEO and cofounder Jonathan Schneider told VentureBeat.

Moderne is built on top of OpenRewrite, an open source automated code refactoring tool for Java that Schneider developed at Netflix several years ago. While developers can already use the built-in refactoring and semantic search features included in integrated development environments (IDEs), if they need to perform a migration or apply a CVE patch, they have to follow multiple manual steps. Moreover, they can only work on a single repository at a time.

“So if an organization has hundreds of microservices — which is not uncommon for even very small organizations, and larger ones have thousands — each repository needs to be loaded into [the] IDE and operated one by one,” Schneider said. “A developer can spend weeks or months doing this across the codebase.”

OpenRewrite, on the other hand, provides “building blocks” — individual search and refactoring operations — that can be composed into an automated sequence called recipes anyone can use. Moderne’s offering complements OpenRewrite and allows companies to apply these recipes in bulk to their codebases.

Above: Moderne screenshot

Enterprises, specifically, can accumulate vast amounts of code. One of Moderne’s early product design partners is a “large financial institution” that incorporates some 250 million lines of Java code — or “one-eighth of all GitHub Java code,” Schneider noted, adding that this is actually on the “low to medium” side for what a typical enterprise might have.

“Some of this code is obsolete (e.g. accrued through historical acquisitions), some is under rapid development (e.g. mobile apps) — but the majority represents super valuable business assets, such as ATM software and branch management software,” Schneider said.

And let’s say a company decides to redeploy developers internally to work on rapid development projects — it still needs to consider the core software components that underpin the business and need to be maintained. Moderne automates the code migration and CVE patching process, freeing developers to work on other mission-critical projects.

When Moderne eventually goes to market, it will adopt an open core business model, with a free plan for the open source community and individual users, while the premium SaaS plan will support larger codebases and teams with additional features for collaboration.

The company said it will use its fresh cash injection to grow a “vibrant open source community for OpenRewrite,” expand its internal engineering team, and bolster its SaaS product ahead of launch.

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Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:

  • up-to-date information on the subjects of interest to you
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  • gated thought-leader content and discounted access to our prized events, such as Transform 2021: Learn More
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