A technical article on 5G technology from Cisco stated that 84% of the telecom service provider’s (TSP) revenue comes from consumers today but will drop to 48% in 2025. The other 52% of the revenue for TSPs will come from enterprises such as auto, logistics, healthcare, and utilities. This change is largely driven by two factors— the transition from LTE to 5G technology, and enterprises driving new business models to change the traditional ways of doing business. This information took me back 12 years and got me thinking.
Circa 2009, Kopin Corporation (www.kopin.com, a leading provider of micro displays) and Motorola solutions were putting together a project to come up with a ‘head-mounted computer (HMC)’ which was an early AR glass, to address certain enterprise applications. The OMAP™ SoC from Texas Instruments (TI), which was the preferred SoC for the likes of Nokia and Samsung cell phones, was chosen as the main compute processor. If anybody needed a low-power battery operated embedded product design, this was one of the most popular choices among the very few options. The prototype was demonstrated in many trade shows, including CES and CTIA 2010. It was a standalone product running WinCE showing some basic functionality with voice commands to demonstrate true hands-free computing. The vision was that this product will become the future of hands-free computing to be used by enterprises to improve productivity. (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJxn7-yDiZw).
It was an audacious vision considering the nascent stage of augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR) technology in those days and without any support ecosystem. Soon after, Google announced the Google Glass project in 2011, and the first commercial prototypes were available in 2013. Though this project was not a commercial success by Google’s standards, it did manage to grab the eyeballs and imagination of the world to the possibilities of AR/VR.
Fast forward to 2020, and Qualcomm came up with Snapdragon XR2— a 5G technology- and AI-enabled chipset designed for AR/VR products, or, as Qualcomm calls it, the XR (extended reality) platform. Thanks to 5G technology and cloud computing, AR/VR is not just a standalone gaming application anymore. Many industries are looking at productivity improvements using this technology for remote technical help in field, training, utilities, manufacturing, logistics, or oil and gas. Even the medical field is looking at teaching its students surgeries on simulated cadavers with augmented reality glasses.
The ‘HMC’ project was envisaged as a connected product with the key to success being low latency, high throughput, and reliable wireless technology integrated into the glasses. This will help with remote communication and establish collaboration with a remote technical expert. The lack of good ecosystem partners to provide the reliable connectivity, software, and apps, were big challenges to commercialize and monetize this product.
As per a recent blog by Ericsson, 5G networks and edge computing is enhancing virtual reality to realize its true potential. Today, we are truly able to realize such a dream. Thanks to the availability of 5G network technology and partnerships between telecom and networking OEMs, TSPs, silicon manufacturers, and cloud service providers.
Figure 1: Ericsson 5G Network in a distributed architecture with AR/VR application.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic is amplifying the importance of AR/VR technology. With the restrictions on travel and in-person meetings, AR/VR could turn out to be a savior in an otherwise grim scenario. These will enable many industries to provide an immersive experience to their employees and customers, almost as well as in-person communication, with a complete hands-free experience.
The AR/VR industry is projected to grow at a CAGR of 35% over the next four years with an incremental growth of $125+ billion, according to Technavio (www.technavio.com). This coincides well with the increasing 5G deployments in different parts of the world. 5G technology should help the AR/VR industry use cases to be deployed across various industries, which will help in adoption, exponential growth, and monetization.
Shutterstock image that best suits the concept of the blog :