MWC2018 – Experts think VR/AR will really benefit from 5G

The theme of this year’s MWC in Barcelona may have been sustainability, but it was definitely unofficially 5G. All over the mammoth conference space, there was excited talk of how the emergence of 5G networks would affect everything from IoT to smart glasses.

In a panel on the future of immersive experiences on Monday, HTC Vive’s president of Viveport Rikard Steiber said that 5G will really enable the integration of AI into a range of services. With the spread of intelligent computers, Steiber thinks it likely that VR/AR will replace the trusty keyboard and mouse as the main form of user interface.

5G will not only allow for a higher degree of data processing, it will also increase the immersive nature of virtual experiences by providing much lower latency bandwidth.

Steiber told the crowd that as the need to express complex data grows; 3D digital representations are often the best tools to use. 5G, when combined with the growing power of cloud storage, should mean that the need for users to actually download and store immersive content is greatly reduced. This could potentially open up VR to a much wider audience.

Soft barriers

Another speaker on the panel, Dr Dave Ranyard, agreed that AR/VR is destined to become the de facto interface with AI. He also agreed that the current lack of 5G is a big barrier towards the widespread adoption of VR.

For the CEO of Dream Reality Interactive, however, it is mobile AR that is the biggest force breaking down the barriers to entry for consumers looking to immerse themselves in virtual experiences. With ARCore and ARKit likely to be on around 500 million devices by the end of the summer, mobile AR is set to announce itself to the public in a big way over the next 12 months.

For Ranyard, there are still a number of barriers for mobile AR. Firstly, a sizeable number of smartphone users do not keep their OS up to date, either intentionally or not. This could result in a significant number of AR-compatiable devices not being able to utilise the technology.

Another barrier is a lack of public knowledge. There is currently not a big enough user base to make social influence a big factor. For Ranyard, the difference between VR and AR is that the latter has the potential to explode into the public consciousness with a killer app or game in a way that the former doesn’t.

The success of this killer app could be based on an evolution of the geolocation-based AR of Pokemon Go. If this is the case, then we are right back to waiting for 5G, which should mean that using such an app doesn’t destroy the battery of a user’s phone.

So, the main takeaway from the talk? Life sure will be sweet when 5G shows up, whenever that is.

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