Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) benefit from multi-access edge computing (MEC) as both applications require high-bandwidth and ultra-low latency. MEC allows for real-time data transfer to quickly exchange between a device and the edge of a network. The edge refers to the network edge of a localized source that computing users tap into, such as radio tower or micro-data center. MEC’s nearness delivers the critical factors of low latency, scalability, and fast speed to run a seamless, immersive VR/AR experience.
Virtual reality is when computer-generated graphics create an immersive virtual world seen either through a headset or glasses. Augmented reality is the same as virtual reality except that it transposes graphics on top of physical reality and it doesn’t require a headset nor glasses. For example, Pokémon Go is an augmented reality phone app that visually places computer-generated Pokémon characters on top of the user’s physical setting.
Mixed reality will also play a part of the simulated reality trend. Mixed reality is an augmented reality with a twist. The graphics in mixed reality can mix with actual objects in physical reality. For example, a Pokémon character can hide behind a physical desk in reality and the user will not see the character until the user ventures to the other side of the desk.
VR/AR already exists within the MEC computing space. However, as MEC grows — and as 5G becomes a reality — these applications are predicted to grow as well. Below are some of the trends expected from MEC and AR/VR in the near future.
MEC and AR/VR Upcoming Trends
AT&T reports that the AR/VR industry will target smartphones, even though the applications require significant processing power that’s draining to a phone’s battery. AT&T insists that edge computing along with 5G will solve this power issue to run VR/AR applications on smartphones. According to the company, “Edge computing addresses those obstacles by moving the computation into the cloud in a way that feels seamless. It’s like having a wireless supercomputer follow you wherever you go.” Expect to see more AR/VR on mobile phones as edge computing becomes more prevalent and 5G becomes a reality.
Immersive AR/VR experiences at events and venues will be the next big thing in the world of entertainment thanks to edge computing. Venues will use MEC to allow the audience to zoom in on the action in front of them via real-time video streams.
For instance, Nokia partnered with the University of Notre Dame to test AR applications during a hockey match. The trial tested real-time video streaming and the overlaying of AR graphics on the video during the game. Joe Hammer, global alliances director for Nokia, said “You can make the stadium, or the venue, come alive….it opens up the doors in many different areas to really monetize the network and to enhance the user experience — through way-finding, through making it more fun and engaging, and getting the fans to go to the stadium.”
According to a Reuters report, the industry predicted it will use VR applications the most out of all of the industry sectors is Education and Training, “which is expected to grow in $2.2B USD in revenue by 2023.” Companies, such as Walmart, also utilize headsets for training employees.