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How 5G can enable cultural experiences

Posted 25 Feb 2019

There is a tendency to focus on the technology of 5G, the infrastructure and on ‘how’ it works, rather than focusing on what 5G can do and the impact it will have on our daily lives.

We’ve said before at Digital Catapult that 5G will revolutionise our economic lives in the same way that 4G changed our social lives. And while that’s still true, there’s an added element to this – 5G will also change how we socialise and interact with cultural experiences in ways unimaginable with previous iterations of network technology.

The pioneering 5G Smart Tourism project, of which Digital Catapult is a key partner, aims to change how the cultural, heritage and tourism sectors create interactive immersive experiences in a way never seen before by launching a virtual and augmented reality tour of 2000 year old Roman Baths, 360 degree immersive experiences, and an entirely new way of looking at art enabled by 5G.

This ambitious project is using the most advanced network infrastructure at the University of Bristol 5G testbed and demonstrating, through real life examples, exactly how immersive cultural experiences will benefit from 5G, and how the experience of the ordinary visitor will change with it.

It is very difficult to strike the balance between technology advances in infrastructure and how these advances can then be used for real impact in improving where we live, work and play – and 5G Smart Tourism has delivered just that.

The £5m 5G Smart Tourism project is led by the West of England Combined Authority and funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. It brings together 19 organisations to showcase some of the UK’s leading 5G tech pioneers.

A 5G showcase of companies large and small

A major milestone in this project is a showcase in March where these organisations will demonstrate exactly how 5G is being used to enable better experiences.

BBC R&D will show how 5G, mixed with virtual and augmented reality, is bringing the 2000 year history of Roman Baths, in Bath, to life. Industry innovators Landmrk will show visitors an interactive, 360 video-guided tour around Bristol highlighting just the vast contrast between 4G and 5G capabilities. And Mativision will present simultaneous 360° VR experiences, revealing how 5G removes barriers to multiple users experiencing shared synced content.

Imagine yourself in a museum. How many times have you tried to Google information about a painting or other artwork to discover, with thousands of people doing the same thing at the same time, that you can’t access the internet? 5G will change this completely and democratise this sort of experience because it allows many users access to the same network at the same time.

Smartify, another of the companies involved in the 5G Smart Tourism project, are looking at how 5G can enhance the experience of their app, which provides information on thousands of artworks from around the world, via bonus content including audio stories and videos.

The stark contrast between current networks technologies and the potential of 5G to cultural experiences carries on behind the scenes as well. The 5G Smart Tourism project has brought together Digital Catapult, University of Bristol Smart Internet Lab, King’s College London, Zeetta Networks, CCS, BBC, Aardman, BT and Bristol City Council and many other partners to demonstrate how interconnecting 5G testbeds and network slicing unlock numerous benefits, from better shared experiences across different locations, to how 5G can support large-scale public events making them safer and better managed.

The success of 5G will be how quickly, and decisively, it is deployed and used. Delivering 5G success is equally about the technology and the innovation needed for new services and applications that will use the new infrastructure in new ways, generating new demand.

Innovation and experimentation with 5G is taking many forms

In our 5G Brighton testbed, a group of local companies are using 5G as a mean for gaining business advantage. Their access to a 5G testbed allows the opportunity to develop innovative products and services using 5G technologies, and getting ahead of the competition. And in Digital Catapult’s 5G London testbed, seven startups sit alongside seven major network infrastructure companies in one of the first places in europe designed specifically for businesses to test, experiment and adopt 5G and other future networks technologies.

There’s a public open day on Saturday 16 March taking place in venues across Bristol (including M Shed, Millennium Square and We The Curious), and I urge you to go, if you can, to experience the momentous and transformative change 5G is having – not just on the infrastructure that you don’t see – but on the art, historical and cultural experiences you might visit on a normal weekend.