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Faster, clearer and much, much smarter: How 5G and AI are transforming immersive content

Posted 2 Jun 2020

As the use of headsets for virtual and augmented reality becomes more familiar and public understanding of the technology is becoming more widespread, immersive experiences are attracting new audiences and global consumer uptake is gradually growing. Continual advancements in wearables and sound technology are also enriching the experience, helping to increase user acceptance and comfort levels.

Yet while immersive technologies themselves – augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and haptics – are evolving at pace, they represent just one area within the advanced digital technology stack. Once other elements are brought into play, such as 5G and artificial intelligence (AI), everything shifts up to a whole new level, and all kinds of possibilities are opening up for writers, developers and producers to explore.

The power and reach of 5G

The move from 4G to 5G cannot be compared with the switch between 3G and 4G – 5G is not just simply another, better, version of existing network technology. Instead, 5G really is a new technology – a future network – that brings all kinds of advantages that will drive significant step-changes in the creative and manufacturing industries, and in the ways that mobile is used by everyone.

  • The increased network capacity of 5G means that location-based immersive installations can reliably connect with much larger audiences: 5G has the potential for up to 1 million connections per square kilometer. Crowd size will simply no longer be an issue for immersive experiences at large-scale events with thousands of attendees, as and when they are able to take place in the future.
  • The second big difference will be 5G’s immediacy. Lags will become imperceptible, with latency eventually decreasing down towards a single millisecond, so an individual’s interactions with their immersive environment (and any people, characters and objects within it) will become virtually real-time.
  • Finally, data transfer volumes and speeds are increasing significantly, enabling effective streaming and greatly accelerated downloads, while enabling the use of cloud and edge computing to support AI functionality, processing and transmission of data.

For example, using 5G, users’ AR cloud experiences could relate to where they are – not just geographically, but also the actual places in which they are sitting or standing, indoors or outside. This can then lead to the adaptation or personalisation of the avatars, information or interactive components to suit the users’ environments. This could be further supplemented through user data to personalise the experience, whether the aim is entertainment, increasing retail sales or teaching the user new skills.

AI is building personalisation and interactivity

The potential of AI-powered immersive is huge. If participants are willing and able to provide personal data, this can be used to shape environments and characters to provide them with an enhanced experience. Conversely, data harvested by the system can be used to create actionable feedback, acted on as part of the continuous improvement process, and learned from to shape future experiences.

Imagine characters that can learn from the behaviours and reactions of the humans they interact with. Characters that can hold conversations and have increasingly realistic responses. And that can consequently generate unprecedented reactions and levels of emotional engagement with audiences. If 2D movies can make people laugh, cry and ‘love’ characters, it’s awe-inspiring to consider the potential impact of immersive content that interacts with them at a personal level.

From a technical perspective, AI can also be used to intelligently manage image rendering, leading to higher quality visualisations that require less bandwidth.

Immersive is not just for gamers

AR and VR content creation is being driven by not just the creative sector, but also by an increasing demand from those businesses and organisations already recognising its potential for manufacturing, retail, arts, culture and heritage. AR and VR environments are already being tested and used for a wide range of training purposes, as diverse as port safety and surgical simulation. With the introduction of eye tracking technology and computer vision, supported by 5G, AI will be used to drive increasingly sophisticated solutions informed by even the most basic of subconscious movements.

Power up content with CreativeXR

Digital Catapult provides unrivalled access to the latest facilities and expertise (including AI and 5G) to advance the use of virtual and augmented reality, supporting the growth of a strong immersive ecosystem in the UK. Its programmes give creative teams the opportunity to develop concepts and prototypes of immersive content for the arts and culture sector.

To find out more about how AI and 5G can positively impact creative content, get in touch with CreativeXR or the 5G Testbed Accelerator programme.

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