VR and 5G: A world of endless possibilities

16th June 2021
Joe Bush

Technology is constantly evolving and while some innovations have a niche impact, others have far greater potential to enhance the lives of many people. 5G is one of the enabling technologies that is driving innovation in a variety of sectors and is likely to benefit many millions of users. Lee Ettleman, Director Corporate Strategy, and Corporate Development at Molex explains further.

Early indications are that 5G will deliver value to consumers in many ways, which will also open up potential revenue streams to a wide variety of businesses. The diversity of applications is exciting, but it makes the market direction difficult to predict – especially where companies will invest, or the ‘killer’ applications that will capture users’ imaginations. Almost everyone has an opinion, and many see the 5G smartphone being at the centre of daily life, especially in areas such as consumer, industrial, and healthcare.

Molex has recently conducted a ‘State of 5G’ survey - when respondents thought about the primary use cases for 5G. Augmented reality (AR) was the most often mentioned application that would take full advantage of the capabilities of 5G technology. Virtual communications applications including FaceTime and Zoom have become popular during the pandemic – imagining these supercharged by 5G gives some sense of how many immersive experiences will be enhanced.

Rapid AR/VR innovation

Innovation in high-speed sub-6GHz and millimetre wave 5G networks, along with developments in end-user devices such as smartphones, tablets, and AR glasses are enabling multi-dimensional interactions that connect consumers seamlessly with their surrounding environment.

The huge gaming market (estimated to be worth almost $300bn in 2026 by Mordor Intelligence) is one sector singled out for particular benefit from AR/VR – including a greater focus on mobile gaming. Consumerism will be another beneficiary with augmented and virtual shopping being among new consumer use cases.

In industry, AR/VR will drive ‘smart factory’ (Industry 4.0) further with innovations on the factory floor and in training staff, as well as supporting those working remotely. As some private 5G networks can be lower latency and offer better security than WiFi, it could become the preferred transmission medium in some instances.

Connected sensors have already proliferated significantly and this trend is expected to continue, especially within industrial machinery to monitor the condition and plan preventative maintenance. 5G networks are likely to become a preferred choice for transmitting the data from these remote sensors.

We expect to see greater use of connected sensors in industrial machinery for functions such as condition monitoring, preventive maintenance, and eventually real-time process control. Data from these sensors can then be fed, wholly or in part, through a private 5G network. This data can be used to monitor tasks remotely, accurately predict equipment failures, improve training and reduce maintenance costs.

Technicians and engineers that work remotely will benefit from virtual data layers made possible by AR glasses or headsets. These can guide the user through a complex task, or allow a colleague to assist from anywhere on the planet. Managers will be able to inspect facilities as if they were there with this technology, saving the cost and time of business travel, and removing the hassle and risk of travel during a pandemic.

While it may take longer to fully roll-out due to regulatory requirements, the medical sector is expected to benefit significantly from this technology. It will be possible to use AR/VR in the field of diagnostics and remote patient care. It will also make medicine more available in remote locations, and allow world-class professionals to assist in surgery from the other side of the planet. This is likely to be the most impactful use of the new technology where it contributes directly to saving lives.

Pulling it all together

There are many elements to the 5G-driven AR/VR future that will need to combine to deliver immersive consumer, industrial and healthcare experiences. These will include network operators, equipment manufacturers, device manufacturers, edge/cloud computing service providers, connectivity solution providers, and applications developers – all of whom must collaborate to create a seamless solution with widespread interoperability.

Communications infrastructure will be a pre-requisite, implying that there will be many more millimetre wave small cell deployments, as well as macro cell antenna enhancements by 5G carriers. Within the devices, AR/VR will demand upgrades to chipsets as well as high-speed connectors and components to cope with the blistering speeds. The situation is and will remain, complex as development in one area of technology drives (and often requires) development in other areas.

For this bright new AR/VR future to become a reality significant investment will be required. Firstly in the infrastructure, then the chipset and component makers, and then the device designers and manufacturers. As the infrastructure evolves and devices become available, the application developers will be able to develop and deliver the ‘killer’ AR/VR apps that the future needs.

Heavy involvement in 5G technology and enablement keeps Molex innovating to remain fully aligned with customers’ needs, ensuring that a 5G-enabled world including fully immersive and engaging AR/VR applications, rapidly becomes an actual reality.

To view the full results of the survey Click Here.

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