Why Virtual Reality Could Be Better With a Mobile Data Connection

  • A predicted coming wave of 5G-connected VR devices could bring the Metaverse to the streets.
  • If you need high-speed data while using VR on the go, your best bet is to use a WiFi hotspot.
  • Researchers are developing a combat medicine robot controlled with a 5G-connected VR headset.

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You may soon be able to take your virtual reality (VR) headset on the road with a built-in high-speed data connection.

According to a new report, 30 percent of augmented reality products and 23 percent of VR shipments will include cellular connectivity by 2027. The major manufacturers of VR headsets do not currently offer integrated high-speed 5G connections, but once they do, it could make a big difference in how you use the device and even help wounded soldiers on the battlefield.

“The future of VR will not be limited to living rooms or offices,” Danny Parks, vice president of technology at mixed reality agency Trigger XR, said in an email interview with Lifewire. “It will be where people are. And mobile data will be a crucial factor in connecting the physical world with digital spaces and virtual worlds.”

Faster mobile VR

Most current VR headsets get their data from a local WiFi hotspot or via the computer to which they are connected via a connecting cable. There may be a reason for the lack of high-speed mobile VR options.

“5G is absolutely key in AR and VR, but it’s time and use case dependent,” said Eric Abbruzzese, research director at ABI Research, the company that authored the mobile data report, in the press release. “Today, most use cases do not require the latency and bandwidth improvements that will come with 5G. However, push connectivity must accommodate more users in more places and consume more types of content over time.”

The future of VR will not be limited to living rooms or offices. It will be where people are.

If you want to use a VR headset on the go, the best option right now for most people is to use an up-to-date cellular hotspot, TJ Vitolo, a mobile product executive for telco Verizon, said in an email interview with Lifewire. “However, these place a Wi-Fi network between the device and the 5G network. Verizon is currently working on solutions to provide direct 5G network access to VR devices.”

But Vitolo predicted that once 5G is widely available for headsets, it could make a big difference for users. He said 5G’s attributes beyond mobility made it significantly better than most indoor wireless networks, including Wi-Fi.

“Ultra-low latency, ultra-high bandwidth, and support for a significant number of simultaneous connections make 5G the best network choice for VR,” he added. “In cases where it is important to run multiple devices in one place, such as B. group training or entertainment scenarios, 5G offers greater scalability and performance.”

The future of mobile VR

For soldiers, high-speed data and VR could be a life-saving combination. Researchers in the UK are developing a medical triage robot that will be remotely controlled by a paramedic using a VR headset. Camera data could be sent to the paramedic over a 5G or other high-speed data connection.

Currently, combat casualties are tended to by a medical technician rather than a doctor. On the battlefield, the equipment and facilities available are limited before patients can be safely transferred to a more advanced medical facility – which can take hours or even days.

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“The development of a remotely operated robotic system would significantly improve safety by reducing the danger faced by military personnel on the frontline,” the project’s lead, Sanja Dogramadzi, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering, said in a press release. “Our platform uses the latest technology and would integrate it in a way that has never been done before.”

Civilians may soon get 5G connectivity for VR. Earlier this year, Verizon announced it was working with wireless carriers to build companion 5G devices for high mobility devices (HMDs), including VR headsets.

“These devices give an HMD all the benefits of a 5G network by physically connecting it to a separate device via a cable,” Vitolo said. “In our current approach we are building a neckband, but it could be any number of form factors suitable for the use case. As the size and cost of 5G radios improves over time, like other generations of previous radios (3G/4G ), integration directly into the device would become more common.”

Parks predicted that the next generation of VR devices will blur the lines between virtual and augmented reality thanks to the power of high-speed mobile data. “This allows users to move seamlessly between virtual, augmented and physical worlds,” he added.

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