PARTNER CONTENT: Excitement is growing in anticipation of the launch of revolutionary applications set to transform both consumer entertainment and enterprise technology, all driven by 5G and utilising advanced virtual and augmented reality.
While each stakeholder will focus on 5G use cases most appealing to its market, several of the technological leaps most likely to grab the public’s imagination and headlines around the world are applications enabled by Cloud Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).
There are many enterprise and consumer uses for this immersive technology, but arguably one of the most compelling showcases is in the multi-billion dollar gaming and entertainment markets, where industry is calling out for cloud technology to open next generation content to a mainstream audience.
Traditionally, obtaining the latest in gaming and entertainment technology has meant significant outlay, limiting its appeal.
Take gaming for example, as evolutions of communications technology have taken place, home gaming has gone from a largely solo activity to one that brings people together to compete and connect with peers across the world. The increased quality of broadband connections has facilitated this change, but ultra-high specification applications remain out of reach for many due to a combination of limits in connectivity technology and demands on physical hardware.
Delivering augmented and virtual reality technology through the cloud has the potential to bring the future of content into homes around the world and significant economic reward for the companies enabling it.
It’s not just recreational content where advanced technologies can make an impact: the enterprise play is also huge – as is the cost of provisioning AR and VR technologies using on-premis hardware solutions. Here, using cloud connectivity can provide a greater number of enterprises with the latest tools to offer the competitive edge needed in today’s business world.
Expertise in the wireless and cloud sectors hold the key to providing the underlying backbone to drive down the price point needed to facilitate this mass-market consumer AR/VR adoption and enable the enterprise business case.
Through collaboration and embracing cloud, mobile service providers can ensure they are in pole position to deliver to all segments.
Making the connection
Delivering AR and VR applications produces challenges unlike any of those posed by other use cases of 5G technology. It requires solutions and architectures designed with these applications in mind. Of course, this means a great deal of effort, investment and collaboration with partners across the wireless industry and stakeholders in target markets. Ultimately, though, the result looks certain to be extremely rewarding.
Access to high-performance multimedia content over AR and VR is currently limited to those with expensive home or enterprise equipment.
The huge requirements for data storage, power consumption and processing power tend to be met by high-specification PCs or physical network systems specifically modified at great expense. The majority of VR and AR applications also require a headset or other device, which are often also required to perform some of the technological heavy lifting.
Not only do these demands restrict the design and portability of devices – especially headsets – but the associated price-points place the technology out of the reach of the mass-market audience the relevant industries desire to reach.
By moving physical hardware elements to an advanced cloud platform AR and VR technology can be opened to a wider market as costs will be limited to the connectivity, content and headset/device rather than the need for a high-specification PC. The use of cloud also offers greater flexibility and opens the potential for new, more portable form factors for devices.
The business case and opportunity is a clear one, but actually providing the backbone infrastructure to enable these applications is a different matter.
Cloud AR/VR technology requires incredibly fast, reliable and low latency bandwidth to deliver to 4k and even 8k displays. 5G will be able to deliver, but first the industry must come together to define best practice to ensure every service can meet the unique requirements of this use case.
That’s why the GSMA will launch the Cloud AR/VR Forum in Huawei’s Global Mobile Broadband Forum (MBBF) in London. The initiative brings together operators, vendors and gaming industry representatives to accelerate developments in cloud delivery of AR and VR technologies.
Issues discussed by the industry group – and at the launch event – will comprise both new business models and required technical developments. Research will include delivery of ultra-low latency codec compression, rendering graphics processing units in the cloud and assessing virtualisation technologies.
Huawei believes there is great potential in a business model it calls “thin client + broad pipe + cloud app” for operators.
Put basically, the case is based around delivery of powerful cloud applications through high-bandwidth connectivity infrastructure to light, consumer-friendly end user devices. This business model is not only applicable to Cloud AR/VR applications, but Cloud PC capabilities and other Cloud X functionalities.
Although it may snatch many of the headlines, it is not just gaming where Cloud AR/VR can have a drastic and lasting impact. There is huge potential for technology based around the same principles in a range of online endeavours, including shopping, enhanced education and training, and other areas of the entertainment industry.
With such a wide and varied opportunity opening-up to the wireless industry, it is important to ensure the whole community unite to define common protocols and best practice for delivery. Fragmenting the market at such an early stage would serve to delay the development of the ecosystem and could damage its potential.
At the Cloud AR/VR Summit at MBBF, we invite cross-industry executives to attend and discuss the best ways forward. It will cover the issues raised above in addition to debates on capabilities offered by 5G-empowered communications infrastructure, trends in cloud technologies, new architectures and new business models for network investments.