Kindle AR or Kindle VR? Amazon Kindle team is Hiring an AR/VR Software Engineer

Here's a story that sounds like a 1 April joke, but it really is not.

Kindle AR or Kindle VR? Amazon Kindle team is Hiring an AR/VR Software Engineer e-Reading Hardware e-Reading Software Enhanced eBook Kindle (platform)

When Amazon launched the Kindle in 2007, they used a primitive and limited ebook format to sell ebooks in the Kindle Store. (It didn't even support CSS, much less basic formatting like fonts and word wrapped around images.)

Amazon tried to make up for the shortcomings by adding in 2010 the ability to embed audio and video, improving the formatting in late 2011 (KF8), adding animated covers and page backgrounds last year (Kindle in Motion), and adding advanced typography in 2015 (KFX, which brought with it a whole host of DRM and other problems).

Only the formatting and typography improvements were widely adopted (to be fair, Kindle in Motion is still in beta), but now Amazon has moved on to the next enhancement to the Kindle.

JellyBooks founder Andrew Rhomberg found a job listing yesterday on Amazon.Jobs that drops clues about Amazon's future plans for its ebook platform.

Amazon"s Kindle team is looking for "an innovative and results-oriented Software Development Engineer" who has experience with the one or more of the following:

  • Graphics software compositing, video, images with hardware assist.
  • Graphical User Interface toolkit with widget libraries adopting the MVC paradigm for event handling.
  • Animation and Interactivity software for creating effects.
  • Multi platform programming languages for 2D and 3D graphics rendering such as Core Graphics, Skia, OpenGL, Direct3D, Metal, Others.
  • Application Execution Framework interfacing to multiple platforms.
  • Animation and physics engines like Unity, Turbulenz, Others.

Andrew pointed out, and I agree, that the Kindle team would only need an expert in 3D graphics and physics engines if they were planning to add either

or Virtual Reality to the Kindle platform. (Click the links for more info.)

(Coincidentally, Amazon still hasn't found the expert they were looking for; the job was initially posted at the beginning of 2016, and then reposted a couple weeks back.)

I'm sure some are wondering how Amazon could add AR or VR to a Kindle with an E-ink screen. The answer is they can't, and weren't planning to.

Generally speaking, the Kindle media features only work in the Kindle apps. Kindle Audio/video, for example, was initially released in the Kindle iOS app and then the Android app and Fire tablet.

The Kindle AR and Kindle VR features, if and when they are released, would most likely a require a decent CPU and GPU. The features will be built with Amazon's own Fire tablets in mind, so they may not be as sophisticated or gee-whiz as what we are now seeing on the Oculus or what Apple has teased with ARkit.

But it would still be better than what we have seen before in ebooks.

Augmented reality and virtual reality have been used in enhanced ebooks several times over the past decade, with little success. In many cases the tech simply wasn't ready - for example, Wondla relied on AR tech that had to be installed in your web browser and tied to a website, and its features died when the site stopped working.

And a lot of the time creators had trouble finding a use for AR that improved a story rather than gilding a lily. The experience was in fact so frustrating that I am averse to the idea.

That said, I can't wait to see what Amazon is going to do.

image by WIKITUDE

About Nate Hoffelder (10816 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

8 Comments on Kindle AR or Kindle VR? Amazon Kindle team is Hiring an AR/VR Software Engineer

  1. Amazon AR/VR? Yes.
    It’s not for Kindle, though.

    It’s for AWS, for KIVA, for the warehouses.
    While consumer VR gets the all hype (and little use), Hololens is quietly building a revenue-generating business away from the breathless hypemongers.

    Amazon is trying to recruit “experts”?
    Apple is making promises toolkit?
    Google is reviving/refocusing glass?

    Google up “hololens elevator repair”.
    It’s just one of the many businesses growing around Hololens.

    Hololens 1.x is out in the real world helping businesses improve productivity right now. Hololens 2.0 is on its way as a single unit headset with embedded hardware AI. ETA 2018.

    Amazon is going to need *something* to help keep the robots running. AWS will need to offer some kind of AR hosting.
    Everybody will need something to improve maintenance of advanced manufacturing systems.

    And they all have a lot of catching up to do.

    • This job is with the Kindle team. If it were with AWS or Kiva then the listing would say that.

      But I do agree with you 100% that there are better ways to use AR than in ebooks. I agree with every example you named, and I really don’t see any reason to add it to the Kindle platform.

  2. Apple’s ARKit looks pretty neat, so with the right development I can see Fire tablets using VR.

  3. I call this jumping to conclusions. Those programming skills are useful when developing any type of game. 3d doesn’t mean VR or AR. 3d graphics have been around since the 90s. These engines listed are game engines. We could be just as well looking at a game developer for exclusive apps for the Kindle Fire.

    I’m not saying that you’re wrong, I’m saying that you’re jumping to conclusions based upon a vague job ad that you’re frankly misreading.

    • 3D graphics is VR. They’re essentially synonyms, and have ever since VR was coined in the `1990s to describe 3D graphics in computer games.

      “We could be just as well looking at a game developer for exclusive apps for the Kindle Fire.”

      If that were the case then Amazon’s game studio would be developing it, or the Fire hardware team.

  4. I have a different theory about what this programmer might be doing. If you look at the current Kindle in Motion titles they have a significant problem in that, even though many of the videos are cartoon-like, the inclusion video makes them hundreds of megabytes in size. If they instead used a 3D game engine to render them from simpler object descriptions it would cut down the size of the files significantly.

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