Enabling Mobile Augmented and Virtual Reality with 5G Networks

February 27, 2017

By Alisha Seam and Amy Poll

Just as smartphones placed the world at our fingertips, augmented and virtual reality will deliver it right in front of our eyes. Augmented reality (AR) enhances the world around us, while virtual reality (VR) creates new worlds for us to explore.

Well-crafted AR/VR experiences can truly resonate with users, evoking a strong sense of presence and emotional response.

Many experts predict that AR/VR will be as game-changing as the smartphone. Imagine:

  • Interactive AR-enhanced field trips for students to enrich their experiences at museums, historical buildings and national parks.
  • AR-enhanced medical devices that put critical information in doctors’ fields of vision and enable them to deliver more precise patient care.
  • Life-like AR/VR training simulations to prepare public safety professionals for their critical work in the field.

The excitement around the far-reaching potential of AR/VR placed it on the cusp of mass-market adoption. However, despite unprecedented development and investment in the past few years, the AR/VR industry still faces significant challenges.

There is much more to AR/VR than the goggles themselves. The immersive experiences require expensive and high-powered computers to drive them, making this extraordinary technology less accessible to consumers. Lower-cost mobile AR/VR technology reaches a broader audience, but struggles to deliver the same quality of experience. Limited processing capability is causing devices to overheat, applications to crash, and battery life to rapidly deplete. The AR/VR ecosystem is still working to create the high-quality mobile systems that will pull this technology from the pages of science fiction into our mainstream reality.

Over the past decade, cloud resources have transformed modern personal computing. From navigating through traffic to viewing the latest trending videos, consumers now have instantaneous access to a large quantity of content and processing power that extends far beyond the capabilities of the phone in their hands. AR/VR developers are eager to harness the power of cloud computing. This will help them enhance the experiences for mobile devices today. However, they have found both the network bandwidth constraints and the latency with data traveling to and from the cloud servers to be prohibitive.

Making compelling AR and VR experiences an everyday occurrence will be one of the greatest challenges for our network. We believe designing 5G and 5G Evolution technology for the greatest challenge will yield the greatest opportunity.

AT&T Foundry explores emerging technology ecosystems just like this. We’re working with startups, other large companies and our own business segments to apply the Foundry’s innovation model to the mobile AR/VR challenge. 

For more on this topic, read an introductory whitepaper by our AT&T Foundry innovation team.

Alisha Seam – Robotics Engineer, AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto

Amy E. Poll – Lead Outreach Manager, Ecosystem & Innovation 

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