5G and Cloud: Synergy Driving Augmented Reality Value

AR tech can unlock the potential of a new generation of cellular networks, with new form factors emerging as a result of its mass adoption. 5G will affect AR application development and mobile use in general and the cloud will add value to the whole AR industry.

801
A pair of glasses and an iphone with an AR image of a castle emerging from it
Illustration: © IoT For All

Each new generation of cellular technology has set the basis for unprecedented mobile experiences and services. While some mobile solutions were much anticipated by users, others popped up unexpectedly as a result of the right combination of scientific, technological, and marketing experimentation.

It is tough to predict how the world will change in ten years, but there is also an advantage: blended with high-speed mobile internet, the freedom of creativity will generate a variety of technological breakthroughs that will seriously affect our perception of information technology.

5G technology, which is expected to drive the U.S. mobile apps market to grow to $224 billion in the months to come, will provide the following benefits to the AR space:

  • Enhanced mobile broadband with higher bandwidth
  • Reduced delays in the app’s performance
  • 100x improvement in traffic capacity compared to 4G connectivity

With 5G, we will be able to transmit more data per unit of time at a consistently high speed and with less response time. In general, the internet will become much more stable and instantaneous.

Let’s review some business cases of how the augmented reality can unlock the potential of a new generation of cellular networks.

Augmented Reality Glasses That Leverage Advanced Cloud Computing

In October 2017, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook gave an official comment on the rumors about the augmented reality glasses that Apple allegedly developed behind the doors of its secret labs. In short, he said the tech “doesn’t exist” yet for Apple to make the right AR glasses.

“Anything you would see on the market any time soon would not be something any of us would be satisfied with,” Cook told The Independent. “Nor do I think the vast majority of people would be satisfied.”

Today, to create efficient AR glasses, you need to embed a vast amount of sophisticated and voracious electronics in them. People don’t want to wear a heavy and cumbersome device the size of a computer on their heads, and even the computing power of large-screen smartphones is not enough for the realistic integration of virtual objects into physical reality.

AR devices available on the market this year (such as ARKit and ARCore, Vuforia, Wikitude, Maxst, Blippar, and WeChat) will have to undergo a significant overhaul to satisfy user demands for convenience.

The smartphone’s form factor has already been established and has reached the optimal balance between convenience, functionality, and appearance. AR glasses will have to go this way almost from scratch. We need to get rid of the majority of on-board computing elements and rely on cloud solutions for data transfer.

The perfect form factor for AR glasses would be glasses that look like ordinary glasses but have the power and functional features of a smartphone. The AR form factor concept announced recently by Zeiss and Deutsche Telekom seems to be the most viable one.

For AR glasses to provide basic functionality through remote servers, all three key benefits of 5G will come in handy, especially the stability of the internet connection.

The reverse concept is demonstrated by Intel in its Vaunt project. Here, the functionality of the AR glasses is reduced so the gadget is miniaturized as much as possible. All data between the user device and the servers is transmitted via a smartphone, not directly.

Building Augmented Reality Solutions for Smartphones and Tablets

Although glasses are commonly referred to as the ideal form factor for consuming AR content, smartphones are still ahead of the curve when it comes to user experience, followed by tablets.

How 5G Will Affect Mobile Use

  1. Smartphones can become highly-efficient mobile computing modules for ultra-light and simple AR glasses. In this scenario, glasses will, in a certain sense, replace good-ol’ Bluetooth headsets—a market that has declined significantly in the past years.
  2. Increase in speed of data transmission will relieve us from irritating loadings. Because of them, many users disable the augmented reality mode in their navigation and gaming applications. The same is true for loading dynamic 3D images, which is often glitchy on 3G and 4G broadband.
  3. Lack of free space in smartphone memory will no longer be an issue for users. A lot of work will be done here with new algorithms for storing rich media data, but the fast and stable cellular communication will allow for storing more content in the cloud.
  4. Finally, augmented reality applications will no longer have such an appetite for absorbing battery power, since many calculations will be made on the server-side, freeing up on-board processors. The latter may be less relevant to Apple products, the philosophy of which is to optimize computing on the end-device. Charge consumption will also be reduced by optimizing 5G equipment such as modems for mobile electronics.

All this will also affect glasses: while they are not yet ready to enter the consumer market at the moment, smartphones remain the first choice for users.

Development of AR Mobile Cloud Services Based on Geolocation and Visual Navigation

When it comes to 5G, mobile apps provide even better food for thinking than devices.

First of all, keep in mind that not all applications require cloud data sources to perform well. Using cloud can even be harmful to apps that don’t require massive data processing or that need an increased response rate.

  • Simple games
  • Apps that don’t need to update a broad base of devices
  • Applications that rely on local data (for example, data from meters or thermal imaging cameras)

While these apps can be pushed to the cloud for enhanced functionality, in general, they can work well without it.

However, there is an array of applications where stable internet connectivity is essential for seamless performance. First of all, this applies to solutions that leverage navigation and large amounts of data, such as 3D models that gradually replace 2D content, thanks to Paint 3D, Tilt Brush and other creative tools available in the market.

5G will give a powerful boost to geolocation-based games like Pokemon Go as well as AR IT solutions such as browsers and content distribution platforms. These platforms are believed to bring the following verticals and functions to the augmented reality world: navigation and localization, marketing and advertising, trade and retail (FMCG in particular), etc.

All the 5G benefits will be simultaneously available to the augmented reality platforms. In our understanding, these are global geolocation services that combine the tools of content creation, monetization, and consumption.

AR platforms will be able to take advantage of two key benefits of 5G: convenience and reliability. Their combination will directly affect the user’s desire to jump on the AR bandwagon and join the game. A multistage mechanism can also apply here: when a semi-autonomous application has downtime, it does not turn off but keeps performing with limited functions. Artificial intelligence systems can work the same way.

For real-time user activity, it’s crucial to reduce data transmission delays, which becomes possible thanks to 5G. The channel’s acceleration and expansion will improve computer graphics and increase the number of variables calculated simultaneously.

In fact, this means that the world around us will become more exciting and fun.

Conclusion

Over the past 50 years, it took each new generation of cellular communication a decade or more to go mainstream and to achieve mass adoption. As generations have changed, the peak speeds have increased from 1.9 kb to 1 Gb per second. Our world has changed too: we now use a myriad of devices and services, from pocket computers to driverless cars to IoT devices to artificial intelligence.

As a new-gen mobile standard, 5G promises to increase the capacity of the mobile internet to 20 Gbps, making it more stable, efficient, and flexible. At the same time, augmented reality has managed to get out of the abyss of distrust, into which it was plunged by raw technologies. Now, it is an integral part of Android, iOS, and Windows operating systems. It will take a couple of years to polish and fine-tune most of the functional features and ensure unsurpassed UX.

Businesses that start investing in AR R&D early will most likely obtain an essential competitive advantage once the demand for AR solutions has solidified across all industries and domains.