Edge computing has become a key component of the extended reality (XR) market in recent years as companies plan to optimise private and public 5G networks to accommodate the emerging technology.
Edge computing allows networks to incorporate more processing closer to the networks to offload strain on devices, providing greater accessibility for 3D visualisations and greater bandwidth on 5G networks.
Philip Wogart, Executive Director DACH at VRARA, hosted a key panel discussion on Thursday detailing use cases in virtual, augmented, and mixed reality for future 5G networks.
Leslie Shannon, Head of Ecosystem and Trend Scouting at Nokia, Ingmārs Pūķis, Vice-President, Member of the Management Board at Latvijas Mobilais Telefons SIA (LMT), Cinzia Campanella, Education, Entertainment, Retail & Media Product Owner at Vodafone Business, and Terry Schussler, Senior Director, Spatial Computing at Deutsche Telekom held the discussion talks on the future of cloud and edge computing for 5G networks.
Private 5G First Step to Design Global VR Networks
Speaking on the development of private 5G networks, Shannon explained how they were used for specific use cases and functions at company sites.
Private 5G offered better security and lower latency compared to public 5G networks, allowed greater coordination of devices such as robots, and provided “unhackability” for such infrastructure, she said.
Shannon explained why VR/AR use cases were increasingly a starting point for 5G use cases, stating,
“If you have an enterprise, you have this known footprint – a very small area enabled with 5G – and a small set of use cases. That’s why it’s easy for companies such as [Nokia] and other operators to begin with enterprises”
End users still faced “clunky” VR/AR head-mounted display hardware, which was the equivalent to massive mobile phones in the early 1990s, she explained.
Current trends in enterprise-grade 5G VR/AR setups involved private networks with “specifically-built” headsets, she said, adding,
“This is going to be the foundation that ultimately morphs into a larger, consumer 5G [network] covering an entire country, with use cases and headset devices that are acceptable to the general public”
5G Industry Verticals: Military and Medical
Ingmārs Pūķis added his company worked with the military as one of its market verticals via a partnership with the Latvian Armed Forces to provide medical training with content from startups.
Firms such as Lightspace, a Marupe-based Latvian AR startup, also assisted in the project.
5G would allow such training solutions to roll out quickly across regions, he explained, adding additional edge computing facilitated different remote teams to participate in exercises with a single instructor.
He explained further, stating,
“Training is one of the obvious [places] where this will go as sectors such as the military become more complex. The number of people available to train is always scarce, motivating firms to bring [modules] as closely, quickly, and cheaply [to] customers as possible”
5G VR Gaming for Consumers
At the consumer level, Campanella explained one of Vodafone’s distributed cloud gaming solution developed in Italy. The company gave access to customers for both 5G and 4G networks to reduce latency and increase bandwidth across both network tiers.
Vodafone Italy also aimed to integrate landlines into gameplay, and the firm launched its GameNow cloud game streaming platform to boost graphical detail without requiring higher VR processing power.
The company also plans to expand 5G coverage across the country, and the Italian government aimed to reduce the digital divide across citizens at remote locations, she added, stating,
“It could be an alternative to broadband in locations where landlines are more difficult to instal, and instead, [users] can receive the same benefits as broadband without the same complications”
Striking a Balance: Edge Computing and 5G
Mr Schussler explained how, following the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, the former acquired more bands for distributing telecom networks to reach rural customers.
He added other operators had focused on millimetre-wave (mmWave) technologies, which restricted coverage and would take time before providing consistent coverage.
Operators had to design networks for “real-world” use cases, he explained, adding,
“The network coverage may vary as a user is in a car at 65mph on the freeway, and they’re switching between different towers, coverage, and demand on the radios at that moment. We’ve been working with companies like Ericsson, Nokia, and others to create changes in the way applications operate to ‘rate adaptation’ to accommodate between these variances between bands users may be on as well as network conditions to create a smoother, more consistent experiences”
The ‘key’ to achieving such standards was to instruct networks to communicate with applications to optimise bandwidth usage and latency, he concluded.
Further efforts from XR firms, including US tech giants Qualcomm and Nvidia, aimed to improve adaptive rates for cloud and edge computing, Shannon explained.
The Nokia exec explained how both firms were leading efforts to boost computing technologies for cloud gaming, VR/AR, and drone control for end users, adding Qualcomm and Nvidia hoped to focus on “taking the processing off the end device [and] moving it into the network.”
5G was the “necessary link” between the minimum processing needed to reduce strain on end-user devices and executing most functionality in the network. Telcoms were tasked with determining which processes should occur in the cloud as well as the device to balance optimal performance, she concluded.
The discussions were hosted at the ongoing VR/AR Association (VRARA) Global Summit: Europe Edition, which is taking place from September 29th to October 1st.
Hopin is hosting the online event for over 300 of the world’s top XR firms, including Pico Interactive, Unity, Samsung, Lenovo, Facebook, HTC VIVE, Nextech AR, HP, and many others.