The GSMA announced the launch of a new industry-wide initiative that will focus on the development of cloud-based virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology in a bid to to combat market fragmentation.
The program – called the GSMA Cloud AR/VR Forum – was unveiled Wednesday at Huawei’s 9th Global Mobile Broadband Forum in London, and is backed by mobile operators including China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, KT Corp, NTT DoCoMo, SK Telecom, Telefónica, Telenor, TIM, Turkcell and Vodafone, as well as other industry partners including Huawei and HTC.
The program aims to encourage members to collaborate on accelerating the delivery and deployment of 5G cloud-based AR/VR services.
“Both VR and AR are disruptive forms of immersive multimedia that, combined with operator edge cloud and 5G connectivity, will transform the cost structures of the enterprise and entertainment fields,” said GSMA CTO Alex Sinclair. “Mobile operators will play a key role in its development, but without a common approach and industry-wide collaboration we risk fragmenting the market from the beginning. The establishment of this forum will overcome this hurdle and ensure we can scale compelling solutions faster.”
The new forum aims to encourage knowledge sharing between members, as well as discussion about new business models including the development of a service reference architecture to avoid cost fragmentation. It will also focus on technical development areas including research into ultra-low latency codec compression, graphics processing unit (GPU) rendering in the cloud and virtualization technologies, as well as the development of simplified interfaces so that developers can easily deploy services.
“The convergence of 5G networks and clouds will enable mass market adoption of immersive experiences like AR and VR. Utilizing scalable computing power at the network edge allows for unprecedented immersive and pervasive customer experience while leveraging cloud economics,” said Arash Ashouriha, SVP of group technology innovation at Deutsche Telekom and chairman of GSMA Future Networks Programme. “Hence, we need to work towards open ecosystems providing common interfaces across the end to end value chain in order to scale cloud AR/VR services fast across different markets.”
AR/VR headsets require a large amount of storage, power consumption and processing power that is currently provided by a PC or gaming device. This makes the headsets expensive and limits their portability, which in turn inhibits their potential as a mass market product. By moving these capabilities to an edge cloud platform away from the PC, it will mean that consumers will just need to purchase the headset making them cheaper and more widely available over time, the GSMA says.