At MXTreality the rollout of 5G this year, and next, is something we’re watching very closely indeed.
Why is it important for Immersive Technologies (and beyond)?
The First Generation to the Fourth
• 1G was purely voice telephony and used mostly by business;
• 2G took mobile devices from analogue to digital. The second G ushered in the age of the SMS, Picture and Multimedia Message and made it available to consumers;
• 3G began to change the nature of mobile communication itself. You could now use your device in more data-demanding ways such as Video Calling and mobile broadband access;
• 4G led to an explosion in mobile data usage. Designed to capitalise on 3G’s new use-case it was designed around efficient access to highspeed data on the move.
The Fifth Generation
With global mobile data traffic expected to be five times busier, than today, by the end of 2024 (Ericsson) there is a need for a more energy efficient technology that enables much higher throughput (bandwidth) with much lower latency (delay) with much greater speed. Whereas 4G speeds peak at around 100Mbps, 5G will give the user the perception of boundless capacity. To put that in context your peak 4G performance will download a 1GB video in something like 43 seconds; 5G will do the same in 0.8 seconds. This will enable a new generation of communication where machine to machine (Internet of Things for example) communication will be as important as people to people. This pushes out the boundaries of telecoms and broadcasting, facilitates emerging industrial applications, and importantly for us at MXTreality, transforms immersive technology and the use of it entirely.
How 5G will erase the key challenges for Virtual and Augmented Reality Experiences.
Outside of large enterprises, where we find the understanding and uptake of Mixed Reality technology more advanced, there are three key challenges as it filters into other sectors: 1. Perceived lack of portability; 2. Cost of the best hardware; 3. Lack of AAA content. However, we’d argue that the root cause of all these problems is the same; “Latency”. There are different types of latency that affect perception or performance of Augmented, Virtual, and Mixed Reality solutions and this is exactly why we’re so excited about 5G. Sensor, Network and Rendering can all contribute delays (and headaches) during the experience of immersive technologies. For the most part Sensor Delay (time it takes for the system to sense your movements) has been reduced to an imperceptible amount in AR devices like the Magic Leap or in VR devices like the HTC Vive. Network and Rendering delay, however, is near impossible to overcome with current technology. Sending the data for a 3D model over a network in real time, for example, is a significant problem as opposed to the requirement for a 2D feed. For solo VR experiences this is true, even though the latency is one way (to the user). Now imagine doing it for games, multiplayer solutions, or with incorporated haptic devices (where huge volumes of information are being sent in both directions), and you’re multiplying the data transfer requirements on your network. This means laggy, jittery, games and haptics that feel bizarrely detached from the experience; imagine typing on your keyboard and seeing each letter appear a few seconds after you press the buttons.
The arrival of 5G, however, means we can push these limitations away from the consumer and up to the Edge Cloud. 5G is expected to bring about a 1000% improvement in throughput, a 1000% decrease in latency, a 10,000% improvement in traffic capacity, and a 10,000% improvement in network efficiency over today’s 4G. Much of the difficult computational work, that Mixed Reality technology must overcome today, will be a thing of the past. 4K to 8K 360-degree live video will be accessible on the move, AAA content will be playable on portable devices, remote training and development will be stream-able, seamlessly, from anywhere to anywhere.
5G will light the touchpaper on an entirely new online existence and immersive technologies will be front and centre of it.