That was 1999 – a seminal scene in the sci-fi motion picture “The Matrix.” Morpheus reveals new insights to Neo; explaining that the red pill refers to a human who is aware of the true nature of the Matrix.
Fast forward nearly two decades to today and you don’t need the red pill anymore. We now have augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies that will help you visualize immersive multimedia or computer-simulated environments and enable you and others interact within this Matrix-like realm in real-time. So, if you choose to, you can create and step in and out of virtual worlds that engage all of your senses.
The AR and VR revolution is primed to move beyond the nascent stage. Both VR and AR are poised to be among the biggest trends in mobile technology (featured prominently at this year’s Mobile World Congress event).
Recent technology innovations have helped us move from Hollywood visions to new levels of alternate or augmented reality. Advancements in mobile technology, edge computing and wireless networking, preliminary 5G networks, highly efficient mobile connectivity solutions, ease of access to smarter mobile and wearable devices, have all contributed to this rich environment for the growth of AR and VR.
While Virtual reality immerses users in a simulated environment, Augmented reality is an overlay of technology on the real world. Mixed Reality, a popular form of Augmented Reality, has a much higher degree of complexity and is much more realistic. It combines the use of several types of technologies including sensors, advanced optics etc bundled into a single device which provides the capability to overlay augmented holographic digital content into your real-time space, creating realistic scenarios. All are equally appealing and compelling and have their own set of specific applications and requirements.
The accelerated acquisition of smartphones, tablets and wearable devices is significantly contributing to the development of AR and VR markets. According to Cisco Mobile Visual Networking Index (VNI) globally, smartphones will be 53.1% of device connections by 2021 (a CAGR of 11 percent), and 85.8% of total traffic growing at a CAGR of 48 percent. VR headsets will grow from an installed base of 18 million in 2016 to nearly a 100 million by 2021, a growth of 40 percent CAGR. AR and VR market development is expected to follow a similar trend.
VR and AR ecosystems have just started developing with the proliferation of content creators to AR/VR platforms to software developers developing applications that leverage the AR/VR technology to enable compelling use cases across all verticals, specifically around, building, construction, real estate, health care, tourism and education.
As a part of our forecasting effort for Cisco Mobile Visual Networking Index 2016-2021 this was the first time that we analyzed and included a VR and AR mobile traffic forecast. When we began our analysis we wanted to see how a VR and AR experience could be included in our daily lives and found that it can be pretty much a seamless experience where the digital environment and applications seep into an analogue daily routine- for example checking email, cooking dinner, doing yoga etc. In fact, pretty much anytime during the day there could be a VR and AR component attached which was previously untouched so there are immense possibilities and opportunities for AR and VR out there.
And on the flip side, this could be a boon for enterprises as this digital world is incorporated into a consumer’s life. While entertainment and gaming are one of the key applications driving VR, and we are seeing strong growth there, AR is primarily being driven by industrial applications such as retail, medicine, education, tourism just to name a few.
From a Service Provider perspective, what this boils down to is that these innovations in AR and VR will place new demands on the network in terms of its quality and performance. Bandwidth and latency requirements will become increasingly important for a high quality VR and AR experience. The Cisco Mobile Visual Networking Index forecasts that globally, Virtual Reality traffic will grow 11 fold from 13.3 Petabytes per month in 2016, to 140 Petabytes per month in 2021. Though a small percentage (0.29%) of global mobile traffic but growth is higher than average total mobile data traffic. Globally, Augmented Reality traffic will increase 7-fold between 2016 and 2021, from 3 Petabytes per month in 2016 to 20 Petabytes per month on mobile by 2021. The same outlook holds here as well wherein it will be a small percentage of global mobile traffic with less than half a percent of global mobile data traffic, but the traffic characteristics are different and something that should be tracked.
AR and VR is a very interesting market space that shows considerable promise for consumers and business users. It indeed is a wonderland that is turning into a reality and we are watching to see how it is going to evolve. Stay tuned with us and we will keep you informed on how deep the rabbit hole goes. You won’t need the RED pill for a heightened sense of enlightenment, but a VR headset may be required.