With COVID-19, many find themselves weary of the disconnect when engaging in virtual interactions with their friends and colleagues.
However, this detachment could be overcome with the use of AR/VR technology that better delivers in-person experiences.
iTNews Asia speaks to Anup Changaroth, Chief Technology Officer for APJ and Senior Director for Strategic Business Development, Ciena to find out more about how the AR/VR landscape has changed during the pandemic, its benefits, and the role that 5G plays in supporting its adoption.
iTNews Asia: How has the AR/VR landscape changed compared to before the pandemic and now?
The pandemic has underscored our dependence on all things digital as well as catalysed the shift towards digital applications that facilitate remote work and collaborations. We’re seeing greater interest in the potential of AR/VR technologies for enterprise use cases as a way to speed efficiencies, lower cost, and recreate in-person experiences remotely.
Businesses are beginning to see the value of incorporating AR/VR technologies as part of their long-term operational strategy rather than just a nice-to-have feature.
iTNews Asia: Do you foresee the AR/VR landscape becoming more commonplace in future? How so?
AR and VR tools will revolutionise the way we work, learn and collaborate in the coming years. These technologies have long been touted as the new frontiers that can drive innovation in areas such as entertainment and retail.
Now, it’s becoming increasingly clear that such immersive tools are a growing solution in the present, and they are expanding far beyond mere leisure use. For instance, Microsoft recently secured a US$21.9 billion contract with the U.S. Army for its mixed reality headsets, demonstrating how these applications provide value and can generate meaningful results.
In the APAC region alone, spending on AR/VR is expected to reach $28.8 billion by 2024, driven by strong demand for possible applications across various industries such as gaming, healthcare, remote working, and more.
We’ve also seen mainstream applications of AR/VR technologies here in Singapore, ranging from training programmes to virtual tourist experiences, and this will only continue to become more common as 5G adoption ramps up.
iTNews Asia: How can an organisation benefit from integrating AR/VR technologies?
AR/VR presents a unique opportunity for businesses to shape the future of work and further enhance virtual collaboration, far beyond the limitations of table-bound remote working tools due to its immersive nature.
By meshing the gaming experiences powered by AR and VR with the enterprise world, businesses will be better placed to solve issues like remote work, customer engagement, technical support and more - the possibilities are endless.
AR/VR applications require the support of a robust underlying communication network with high speeds, high reliability and low latency. VR is especially sensitive to lag and slowdown, due to the number of lenses and video streams required to create the experience.
- Anup Changaroth, ChiefTechnology Officer for APJ and Senior Director for Strategic Business Development, Ciena
At Ciena for example, we are leveraging AR/VR technology to work with contract manufacturing sites so that we can virtually instruct our partners on product design. We also started using extended reality in our labs for customer demonstrations and for our own IT tech support to remote offices
This has been particularly helpful in getting potential partners to interact with large hardware that can’t be easily transported, and even more so in current times when we have limited in-person interactions.
More broadly, consumer-oriented businesses have also started to adopt AR tools to enhance their businesses. IKEA, for example, has an Augmented Reality application called IKEA Place that allows consumers to test IKEA products virtually in their own living room through an Apple iPhone or iPad.
Another example is L’Oreal’s acquisition of Augmented Reality company ModiFace, an application framework which allows consumers to test out cosmetics virtually through AR before they make purchasing decisions.
iTNews Asia: How will 5G help with handling the increased bandwidth demands stemming from using AR/VR technology?
AR/VR applications require the support of a robust underlying communication network with high speeds, high reliability and low latency. VR is especially sensitive to lag and slowdown, due to the number of lenses and video streams required to create the experience. To transmit the information, copious amounts of bandwidth are required – and even more for 360 VR and live VR.
Compared to 4G, 5G is expected to offer 100x faster speeds and 10x lower latency, bringing it much closer in performance to traditional consumer fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) fixed broadband and home WiFi.
This combination of capacity and latency improvements will not only enable many of the applications mentioned previously to be operated wireless, but it will also unleash a new range of AR/VR applications and raise the bar for truly immersive experiences.
iTNews Asia: How would an adaptive network prepare organisations for an increased usage of AR/VR technology?
To unlock the potential of extended reality, organisations must ensure massive amounts of data can be transferred without being slowed down or limiting the experience -- especially when it comes to enterprise applications where employee safety and business continuity might be on the line, there is simply no room for a jittery network.
With the future of data consumption at the edge - in homes, vehicles, hospitals, factories and other mission-critical environments, metro networks need to be able address surges in bandwidth demand and deliver a faster time-to-market.
However, there are significant space and power limitations at the edge, which necessitates a flatter network infrastructure model with less equipment. Hence, service providers will need to explore new ways to simplify their operations and get the most out of their networks.
An adaptive network utilises a combination of intelligence, software control and automation, and a programmable infrastructure. Guided by data-driven analytics and intent-based policies, it is set up to rapidly scale, self-configure, and self-optimise by constantly assessing network pressures and demands.
This approach allows networks to respond to spontaneous surges of traffic across the network at all times, with the agility to scale on-demand in order to deliver the ultra-low latency required for truly immersive VR and AR experiences.