SoftBank and Huawei demo 5G use cases – including robot air hockey

air hockey
Image credit: Fer Gregory /

SoftBank and Huawei Technologies Japan jointly demonstrated various potential use cases for a 5G network to SoftBank’s business partners, including remote control of a robotic arm playing air hockey, immersive video, real-time UHD video transmission and remote rendering via a GPU server using edge computing.

The robotic arm demo involved an air hockey game between the robot and a human. A camera installed on top of the air hockey table detected the puck’s position to calculate its trajectory. The calculated result was then forwarded to the robotic arm control server to control the robotic arm. The arm was able to strike back the puck shot by the human player on various trajectories. Softbank says the demo was enabled by the 5G network’s ultra-low latency one-way transmission of less than 2ms.

The immersive video demo captured scenery via a 180-degree camera equipped with four lenses pointing four different directions installed in the demonstration room. The video images from four separate cameras were stitched together to generate a 180-degree panoramic video image that enabled multiple simultaneous camera views. Then the video image was compressed and distributed to smartphones or tablets in real-time over the 5G network. Coupled with a 5G network, this technology can be applied to virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR).

For the real-time UHD video demo, a UHD camera was installed inside the demonstration room to capture outdoor scenery. The data from this camera was then compressed in real-time using an encoder and transmitted through the ultra-high throughput 5G network to a UHD monitor via a decoder, where the original data was recovered. In this demonstration, the scenery of the Odaiba Tokyo Bay area was successfully displayed on the UHD monitor using via 5G network at a throughput rate of over 800 Mbps. This technology can be applied to various industries, including tele-health or tele-education.

The remote rendering demo addressed the fact that rendering HD videos with a GPU – whether for computer games or for CAD – consumes a large amount of computing resources well beyond the capability of tablets or smartphones. Edge computing with 5G-level connectivity is one solution to enable HD computer games or HD CADs on such devices. In the demo, a GPU server located near a 5G base station performed rendering and the image generated by the GPU server was sent to the tablet over the ultra-high throughput and ultra-low latency 5G network.

Huawei and Softbank collaborated on the immersive video and robotic arm demos – the rest were put together by SoftBank alone.

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