With 5G, AR and VR are Poised to Transform Media and Entertainment

By Mark Stone, Contributor

5G technology may not be ready for mainstream use, but if the pundits are correct, 5G-enabled smartphones in 2020 may signal the beginning of what’s expected to be a wild ride for mobile.

According to a recent Intel/Ovum report, by 2028, 5G is forecast to bring $1.3 trillion in revenue to the media and entertainment industries. The report also anticipates 57 percent of global wireless media revenue will be generated thanks to the much higher bandwidth capabilities of 5G networks.

5G represents a massive opportunity to deliver content that isn’t possible with current 4G and LTE technology. The bandwidth required to provide augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) data, for example, is too demanding for today’s mobile networks. But with 5G, the possibilities are endless.

5G represents a massive opportunity to deliver content that isn’t possible with current 4G and LTE technology.

Imagine applications in which players wear AR-enabled glasses that can display real-time information and content, or VR experiences that provide haptic feedback with touch components. While media outlets like The New York Times began incorporating AR into stories several years ago, such articles could prove more immersive with greater bandwidth.

XR strategist and CEO of EndeavorVR Amy Peck speaks about the use cases and challenges for delivering immersive content at scale. The tech evangelist says the groundwork for her company was laid in 2013 when she envisioned the possibilities to interact with 3D objects in a virtual space. The company integrates AR and VR solutions for industries including healthcare, retail, education, and hospitality.

“Most of these new technologies each get their 15 minutes of fame,” she says, but with 5G, the fame may not be fleeting.

According to Peck, fast mobile networks make all the potential use cases for AR and VR—think agriculture, retail, and healthcare, among others—that much more accessible to consumers and businesses alike. The mobile AR experiences today are fairly basic due to bandwidth requirements (5G is up to 20 times faster than 4G), she says, but the combination of 5G and the upcoming wearables will be where the magic happens. Peck points to e-commerce giant Wayfair as a company that is making the most of leveraging wearables as the next computing platform.

Using VR glasses, Wayfair shoppers can be immersed in an interior design experience that allows them to design a room of their own. “[The glasses are] fashionable, chic, and have incredible computing power,” says Peck. This is one such market where “we’re going to start to see the power of 5G.”

Next-gen Network, Next-gen Experiences

Peck predicts the next generation of mobile networks will bring the hardware to the hands (or heads) of the consumer. “[5G] offers us the ability to engage in more robust multiplayer games and to consume much more rich media.” Wearables, she adds, when powered by the smartphone, will drive adoption, as devices like glasses won’t need to carry the compute power.

“5G offers us the ability to engage in more robust multiplayer games and to consume much more rich media.”—Amy Peck, XR strategist and CEO of EndeavorVR

For industry experts like Peck, the next generation of entertainment experiences will improve upon the social and multiplayer aspects, and include a discovery mechanism in which different objects are rendered in your field of view.

“Imagine taking all of Game of Thrones and [wrapping it up] into one piece of content (there’s already a tech-heavy AR experience for the HBO hit),” she says. “You could follow your own storyline or the director can give you a path to follow, but it’s all happening in real time. You could record that entire experience, share it with somebody, or invite somebody else to share with you.”

Through an AR cloud layer, a term coined by AR developer Ori Inbar to describe “a persistent 3D digital copy of the real world to enable sharing of AR experiences across multiple users and devices,” content consumers can take part in what Peck calls “sticky AR experiences.” “What I’m seeing in that field is that you can walk into any [physical] environment and there might be hundreds or thousands of different AR experiences that live in that environment because they’re enabled by the AR cloud,” she says.

But Peck points out that the success of mobile AR and VR technologies precipitated by 5G will ultimately be measured by users as opposed to use cases. “As we sit today, the consumers don’t care about AR and VR yet,” Peck says. “They’re not out there looking for it.”

Change, Peck believes, is in the delivery of the right experience to the right person at the right time in the right place. “It’s about context, utility, and fun,” she says. “I think once we start delivering experiences with those three elements, that’s when the hockey stick moment happens.”