October 3, 2023
UK telco group BT has opened doors to a new testbed designed to play around with immersive experiences for work, home, health and entertainment.
The testbed will enable it and collaborators to test out how things like network exposure functions, cloud-rendering and enhanced localisation might support mixed reality use cases, and it’s all being hinged off EE’s public and private 5G.
BT will use the facility to work out how networks, platforms, services and apps can be optimised for cloud-GPU rendered extended reality immersive experiences, with a focus on the use of augmented reality, we’re told.
The platform is still in testing phase, but has apparently already yielded some demonstrations of use cases for car retail, education, sports broadcasting, medical imaging, and an extended reality digital twin of Adastral Park – its global R&D headquarters. Using 5G, cloud-GPU rendering and hybrid localisation, the system allowed data such as power usage of buildings and equipment to be viewed by integrating live data streams from Johnson Controls International.
“With this testbed we’re looking to understand what future extended reality immersive experiences might require from network service providers like BT Group, platform operators and application service developers,” said Andy Gower, Head of Immersive Content & Comms Research.
“These requirements will obviously vary depending on the particular use case. At the extreme we might need to support a completely cloud rendered immersive experience which would require high-bandwidth and low-latency networks paired with new facilities such as network exposure functions that would enable a platform operator to request additional capabilities such as edge GPU compute or symmetric bandwidth provision that would optimise the end-user experience. By understanding the demands of future service use cases – networks, platforms and applications can be optimised to provide the best possible quality of experience for users.”
Gabriela Styf Sjoman, MD Research and Network Strategy, BT Group added: “Network optimisation is a fundamental enabler for immersive experiences that will require high bandwidth, high capacity, and ultra-low latency networks which can be dynamically configured for the demands of different extended reality service applications. As the UK’s leading provider of fixed and mobile networks we’re delighted to invite others in the ecosystem to work with us, using the testbed to explore future use cases for consumers, enterprise and industry sectors.”
More immersive experiences will be developed collectively by an ecosystem of content providers, hardware, software, platform developers, we’re told.
Qualcomm is using an assumed future explosion of VR/XR/AR to pitch its Wi-FI 7 products – the idea being home networks will come under much more strain if everyone in the house has some form of immersive goggles strapped on, and a new generation of wifi can help optimise it.
Leaning in to AR and XR for this testbed as opposed to VR makes sense if its all about 5G, since there doesn’t seem a very strong case for using these sorts of fully immersive gadgets outside the house on mobile networks.
While immersive experiences are being used to demonstrate what Wi-Fi 7 can do, or tinkered with to find out how 5G networks will need to support them as this testbed is described as doing, the actual demand for devices that support them isn’t exactly booming at the moment. According to stats from IDC, shipments of AR/VR headsets totalled 8.8 million units last year, a decline of 20.9% on 2021 – noticeably lower than its prediction of around 9.7 million units.
Of course, that could all change as the technology progresses and the market comes up with something that really grabs the attention of consumers and businesses.
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