AWS Spatial Computing Blog

The AWS Builder Studio: Out of the Cloud and Down onto the Street

Note:  This blog was written by Heidi Buck but edited (for grammar and readability) using Amazon Bedrock Text Playground, using the Jurassic-2 Ultra model and default parameters. The thumbnail image for this blog was created by using Amazon Bedrock Image Playground, using the Titan Image Generator G1 and default parameters.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts and opinions of Amazon Web Services, Inc.


Roughly a year and a half ago, I joined Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a member of a prototyping team. This prototyping group goes by the acronym PACE, which stands for Prototyping and Cloud Engineering. Our primary objective is to collaborate with our AWS customers to bring their innovative ideas to life, helping them realize their vision utilizing AWS technology. I was specifically recruited to lead a new prototyping team focusing on spatial computing. Over the past year, my team has produced some remarkable prototypes for a diverse range of customers across various industries.

Interestingly, little did I know when I accepted my role at AWS that I would also be presented with numerous side projects beyond my primary responsibilities on the prototyping team. Specifically, the AWS Builder Studio has presented me with exciting opportunities to explore new technologies from AWS and across the spatial computing spectrum.

This blog post is a personal journey into the story behind the buildout of the AWS Builder Studio, highlighting spatial computing prototypes that we feature in the Studio, and discussing how in-person demonstrations in places like the Studio have evolved into a new immersive hands-on experience for AWS, making hard to understand concepts like “the cloud” more tangible for AWS customers.

The AWS Builder Studio in Manhattan

The Studio is in an exciting location in a brand-new beautiful Amazon building on 5th Avenue in midtown Manhattan. It is a historic building, having been the former location of the famous Lord & Taylor department store, iconic for its holiday display windows, which, by the way, are still being used as such today.  I last visited the Studio in late November 2023 and was pleased to see the 5th Avenue windows decked out with some cool digital display technology which depicted a somewhat 3D-looking snow globe complete with an Amazon Prime delivery holiday scene unfolding inside of it.

The architecture and design of the building is truly wonderful. During the remodeling, the designers were able to keep many aspects of the historical building and elements of the former store, while designing modern pieces around it.

The building is situated in the “Garment District” in Manhattan, and is named “Hank”, which pays homage to the textile industry, where a unit of measurement of yarn was called a “hank”. A hank of linen, for example, is 300 yards. The building was the fifth location of the Lord & Taylor department store, and was built in 1914. I cannot imagine what former Lord & Taylor customers would think of it now, with its beautiful glass features, open concept spaces, bright colors, artwork that is reminiscent of textile and design, paired with high technology and modern amenities.

Images of Lord and Taylor Building

Images of Lord and Taylor Building

Images of Lord and Taylor Building

Images of Lord and Taylor Building

Images of Lord and Taylor Building

Images of Lord and Taylor Building

The second reason why it is an exciting location is because of the AWS Builder Studio, which is a great venue to see all of the amazing prototypes that have been built on the cloud by the AWS teams and customers alike. It is very inspiring. The Studio covers 8,000 square feet of showroom, collaboration space, and prototyping labs, and the centerpiece is the Innovation Showroom, where partners and AWS builders can showcase innovative products and tools. What really makes the Studio unique is the AWS builders who are there, ready to work and collaborate with our customers.

When my team and I set out to build the Studio, we had a short turnaround time for sourcing demos, purchasing equipment, installing everything, and meeting the deadline for the opening of the building in July 2023. And in accordance with the Amazon leadership principles, I needed to do this in the most frugal way possible. In the beginning, we sourced demonstrators that we knew of (ones that our PACE team or other prototyping colleagues had built). As such, much of the demonstration space is very homegrown and dedicated to engineering and prototyping from within AWS.  I should point out that Raj Talasila, a PACE Technical Program Manager, and currently our on-site Studio Manager, was instrumental in sourcing a significant number of our demos and he performs a substantial amount of work in the Studio keeping the demos fresh and up-and-running every day.

The first demo I immediately considered for display in the Studio was Simple Beer Service (SBS).  SBS is a cloud-connected kegerator that sends data about beer flow to a display for monitoring pours in real-time. This one was easy to source and approve for entry into the Studio, as it was a project my boss (Todd Varland) worked on originally! At that point, I had beer, so what was next? Coffee, of course! I commissioned RoboTap Coffee for the Studio as well, which is a robotic cold brew nitro coffee selection and pouring machine, similar in vein to SBS.

Simple Beer Service

RoboTap Demo

I decided to repurpose garage/workshop cabinetry for all our internally-built demos, as this aligns with the lab’s active working status for both tinkering and building on AWS. It also adheres to the leadership principle of frugality (I bought the cabinets on sale during Father’s Day). In the following image, you’ll see our logo-emblazoned cabinetry for our EV Charge Point Operations Management demo, which demonstrates how to charge large fleets of electric vehicles in the most cost-effective and optimal way, and how to automate the charging process. And then following that image you’ll see my coworker Adam Chernick, who is engrossed in a VR headset while setting up a demo sourced from our Amazon coworkers, showcasing the physical maneuvers typically performed at a fulfillment center.

VR Fulfillment Center Demo

EV Chargepoint Demo

Following the sourcing and setup of a number of our internal demos, Raj and I decided to showcase some exciting customer-developed equipment running on AWS. We have listed all the customers who donated equipment to the Studio on our public website (shown below). Most of this equipment is featured inside our Media and Entertainment (M&E) vestibule, as shown in the subsequent images. The M&E demonstrator features an integrated end-to-end solution showcase for content production and live broadcast solutions. However, some of our customers’ equipment is also interspersed throughout the Showroom, such as the Proto hologram system, the Ideum touch table, and Matterport hardware discussed later in this blog.

M&E Logos

M&E Demos M&E Demo

The Importance of In-Person Demos

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently published an article on the Studio regarding Amazon’s New Approach to Selling Enterprise Software? In-Person Demos. Needless to say, I was thrilled when the WSJ covered the Studio. They state, “This fall,’s cloud-computing business Amazon Web Services opened a New York City “Builder Studio,” designed to showcase cloud-based tech and provide a space where companies can build prototypes alongside AWS engineers. CIOs walking through the space can experience prototypes of technologies such as a digital twin—a virtual, real-time rendering of a sensor-studded physical space or other asset. It also boasts a virtual try-on demo where visitors can see renderings of what some shoes sold on would look like on their feet and an advertising mood board creator fueled by generative AI.” To be fair, not all our demos are hands on however.  We currently showcase approximately 15 demos in the Studio.  Some are operable and interactive, while others remain static and on display only. One of our most popular demos is the interactive Smart Foosball demo, which packs a punch with generative AI commentary on each play, an image of the foosball demo is shown following this paragraph. This demo was also featured at AWS’ re:Invent conference which happened in Las Vegas the last week of November.  Examples of some static displays include learning about Amazon’s Astro robot and robots in the Amazon fulfillment center.

Foosball Demo

The WSJ article focuses on how important the tangible portion of these demos are. “The in-person aspect of the experience is critical for CIOs to really understand what they can do on the AWS cloud,” said Shaown Nandi, director of technology, strategic industries. The article further highlights a recent experience with the immersive startup company Proto, whose Proto Epic device is one of the first things you see when walking in the Studio door. “For startup Proto, which has partnered with AWS to demo its hologram technology in the Builder Studio, the chance to get the tech face-to-face with customers is incredibly valuable.”

I personally really like the Proto Epic holographic device, having first encountered it at the AWE XR 2022 spatial computing conference. When tasked with establishing our Studio, I resolved to install one of these devices at the front door to welcome visitors. In fact, I even filmed myself as a hologram, at a Los Angeles studio, to extend a personalized greeting to our guests. I love it! However, as most people acquainted with me would attest, I am drawn to anything that embodies excitement, immersion, and showcases cutting-edge display technology. For your perusal, I have included some images of the Epic within our Studio in the next sections. But I would agree with the WSJ article, and the comments from the Proto team, that a customer can easily see a product or concept on a website or in a video, but it is a whole different experience to be standing in front of a full-size Epic device and face-to-face with your very own hologram!  The interplay between technology and human interaction holds great significance.


Spatial Computing at the Studio

But I digress into stories about holograms.  What does any of this have to do with spatial computing?

Cathy Hackl wrote a great piece recently for the Harvard Business Review about What Leaders Need to Know About Spatial Computing.  In this article, she defines spatial computing and references the fact that it is a somewhat newer term.  In my AWS blog post earlier this year regarding Exploring the Spatial Computing Spectrum:  From 3D to Simulation, I defined spatial computing as “a blending of the virtual and physical worlds which enhances how we visualize, simulate, and interact with 3D data combined with location.”  Cathy combines a number of these definitions, all from top spatial companies, into the following definition: “Spatial computing is an evolving form of computing that blends our physical world and virtual experiences using a wide range of technologies, thus enabling humans to interact and communicate in new ways with each other and with machines, as well as giving machines the capabilities to navigate and understand our physical environment in new ways.”  But let’s take a step further and simplify that definition yet again:  spatial computing involves our virtual and physical worlds, and human interaction or communication with each other and with machines.

In my original blog post I showed a spatial computing spectrum graphic which I have now updated, and have reposted below.  This spectrum describes all of the technologies that encompass spatial computing and the updates to the graphic include more callout for Generative AI.  At AWE XR 2023 Ori Inbar stated in his keynote that “XR is the interface for AI.”  This idea about immersive devices being the interface to AI keeps coming up again and again in our circles at AWS and outside at conferences as well.

The original graphic and the updated version were created by my colleagues Kurt Scheuringer and Todd Varland, and I cannot take credit for either of them. However, as I have mentioned in a couple of conference talks since its publication, I am fairly confident that people will be able to find missing relevant technology or a technology out of place on the spectrum. But the general idea behind this diagram is what is most important: that spatial computing encompasses a lot of different technologies and that AI plays an important part.

So again, what does the Studio have to do with spatial computing?

Well, for starters, there are a handful of prototypes in the Studio that are related to spatial computing.  The Ideum touch table with a digital twin model on it (created by a Matterport Pro3).  A VR headset with a fulfillment center demo on it.  Amazon’s virtual try-on technology is featured, using a cell phone and AR passthrough.  Several generative AI artwork and moodboard displays.  Even the Proto Epic can be considered spatial computing technology because it involves display, visualization, and immersion.

More importantly, I argue that the AWS Builder Studio introduces a new “immersive” experience for AWS and AWS customers alike. The Studio brings together various technologies, providing a concrete example of how real-world applications can be crafted and operated on the cloud. Often, the cloud remains an abstract concept that proves challenging to visualize, explain, and understand for many. The Studio addresses this issue by offering a tangible platform for conversations that begin with, “Wow! I didn’t know the cloud/AWS could do that!” The Studio transforms the intangible nature of the cloud into a tangible one, making it more accessible and engaging for all.  This is essentially at the heart of any good spatial computing demonstration as well — immersivity, visualization, human interaction and communication.


Offering a physical demonstration space, not just another website, blog, or internet video, where customers can experience the “art of the possible” and discuss how to build it with AWS builders-in-residence, is truly something special. The Studio provides customers with the opportunity to discuss how AWS and their internal teams can work together to innovate on customers’ problem sets. According to the WSJ article, “versions of in-person prototyping labs at AWS have been around for around five years but the Builder Studio is a more evolved and bespoke experience.  [Shaown] Nandi said the AWS Builder Studio differentiates itself from similar labs because of its focus on customization and working with engineers at customer companies to develop prototypes built around their specific needs.” The Studio helps customers experience the intangible (the cloud) through tangible and relevant demonstrators run by builders-in-residence.

For quite some time now, AWS has been assisting customers in moving to the cloud for various reasons. These reasons include enhanced security, potential cost benefits, better operational efficiency, and overall productivity improvement. However, another compelling reason is the capacity for innovation that the cloud environment offers. With AWS, customers have the ability to experiment with and embrace new technologies, enabling them to innovate at a much faster pace. And part of that innovation involves prototyping teams like mine in every region around the world, helping our customers innovate even faster.  The AWS Builder Studio is a testament to this innovative spirit.