RECAP: The Latest in AR & VR

Author: Linda Hull, Director, Telecom Council

DSC_0810With thanks to Qualcomm for sponsoring and Plug and Play for hosting, our public meeting to discuss the latest developments in virtual and augmented reality proved to be popular with members and non-members alike.  Headsets at the back of the room and compelling presentations at the front kept our delegates engaged from start to finish!

With commercial growth expected in healthcare by using headsets instead of displays, in construction by visualization prior to breaking ground, and retail with the ability to try something on without trying it on, our Analyst, Steve Max Patterson of IDG stated UIs need to improve, interaction needs to become more sophisticated and social factors need to be investigated.  Foreseeing VR/AR as the new way humans will interface with computing from basic smart phone gaming applications through to more advanced, higher resolution and higher risk medical instances, Steve stated that before we can hit the 100 million devices shipped by the predicted year 2021, resolution with holography, eyetracking and handtracking will need to be solved and the network will need to grow to accommodate bandwidth and latency demands.  VR /AR can offer everyday benefits by augmenting life with additional context, and what was once seen as elusive scifi is destined to become mainstream.  Benefits are easy to imagine but until VR wearables become smaller and more accessible, consumer adoption will be slow, as seen by the perceived VR “flop” in 2017 sales.  Steve posed that, when you can “see” a chair in your home, without having to make the purchase, or find what you are looking for through a virtual floor plan, or test drive a car without leaving the lot, VR/AR will progress beyond enterprise applications to everyday Joe looking to immerse himself in an isolated VR world.

If augmented reality holds the key to progressing virtual synthetic environments for the common man, connectivity will be paramount.  Bandwidth and latency will need to adapt and/or improve in order to support the “6 degrees of freedom” slated as the epitome of VR experiences.  Keynote speaker, Rasmus Hellberg of Qualcomm identified 4 main challenges:

  • Uniformity – how to ensure a seamless experience in the case of automotive video streaming for example
  • Capacity – meeting the bandwidth requirements of sports venue crowd sharing
  • Latency – not only within the network, but also within the device itself to achieve the elusive 6 Degrees of Freedom
  • Multi-Sensory – the entire premise of a tactile, stereoscopic experience that is VR/AR

He went on to state that glasses are the obvious progression from the cumbersome headsets we see today and the mobile ecosystem offers the scale and rapid design cycle to make this happen, driving the capacity for more immersive experiences which in turn will drive costs down.  Seeing Gigabit LTE, 5G and wifi all working together Rasmus predicted a seamless, uniform experience with ultra-low device latency (to combat the sensory nausea many devices currently provoke) and adaptive network latency depending on application.  If 5G and improved VR/AR experiences go hand in hand, the decision to accelerate 5G deployment to 2019 should have positive effects on the development of VR/AR devices and everyday applications.

Somewhat unique to today’s meeting, compared with other events on this topic, was the focused panel discussion on connectivity.  Clifton Dawson of Greenlight Insights moderated the panel of service provider, John Benko of Orange, Rasmus Hellberg of chip giant Qualcomm and David Levitt of startup Pantomime Technology who each expressed their views on what constraints the network might place on VR/AR.  While latency might seem like an obstacle from a layman’s perspective, the panel agreed that Gigabit LTE is more than adequate for current uses, with the need for ultra-low latency only specific to few applications.  The panel discussed the dilemma of potential delays, where a signal travels through many network components (including the cloud), and how those scenarios might demand increased bandwidth.  What the panel did emphasize is that, as long as every participant shared the same latency, where images and sound were synched, and where the application did not demand the 5ms response that a delicate surgical procedure might require, the network was ready.  The panel closed with predictions on how to achieve 100m shipped units: glasses will have to replace headsets so that AR can offer tangible improvements on day to day interactions, bandwidth in the mobile ecosystem has to accommodate an untethered experience, the cost to create has to reduce below the cost to consume to take the technology beyond enterprise adoption.

The panel was followed by an impressive group of startups, all with varying approaches to VR/AR opportunities:

  • Zeality –creating engagement models around content in the sports entertainment channel.
  • LucidVR – introducing the next stage of VR camera technology – 3D VR.
  • Botanic – populating VR with avatar chat bots at the intersection of AI, VR and AR.
  • Enflux – bringing motion capture clothing to non-movie applications such as physiotherapy
  • G’Audio – matching audio with visual with binaural rendering to create a true sense of “being there”.
  • NGCodec – FPGA based encoder solution enabling high compression low latency cloud based video services.
  • AtheerAir – creating Enterprise AR applications leveraging gesture control.
  • JanusVR – envisioning collaborative, immersive internet, blurring the line between physical and virtual realities in the form of a VR 3D browsing experience
  • VividWorks – revolutionizing  retail sales with an omni-channel 3D visual sales solution
  • Virtually Live – Bringing live event experiences to the 98% of fans who have never visited the stadium
  • Pantomime Corp – Creating the software to make VR/AR scale

Thank you to all our speakers, to our host Plug and Play and our sponsor Qualcomm.   Members can view all of today’s presentations in the Member Library, and see demo pitches from Enflux, AtheerAir, G’Audio, NGCodec, JanusVR, Botanic and LucidVR below.

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