When people ask Timoni West, Vice President of XR Tools at Unity, what the killer app for Extended Reality (XR) is, she warns: That’s the wrong question.
“The top apps [on a smartphone] are for watching videos, connecting with friends, conducting businesses, paying taxes, and finding places in the real world. Which one is the killer app? The answer, of course, is whichever app you need at the moment,” West said during her MWC 2021 speech in Barcelona. “What is really killer here is not what each app can do. It’s what a smartphone can do.”
That change of perspective opens room to bring 5G and mobile connectivity into the conversation. Because, according to West, that combination is what makes the future of XR enticing and disruptive: The rise of contextual computing.
“This is a huge step for computers. Not just computers being networked to each other but aware of the world. And what kind of devices are they? What other devices and people are around? So the right question is – is there a killer new tech? And the answer is yes. Contextual awareness,” she explained.
In practice, this means, for instance, the ability to have all the appliances in your house running apps and sharing important information that a particular device – a smartphone, a smart speaker, smart glasses – can show you best. We can even extrapolate such an example: Not just being able to run multiple apps but having multiple people on different devices.
And it’s in that scenario that West believes we will get the most value from XR: Pervasive and enhanced connectivity. “[We are pursuing] Not just another ‘verse’, a place where people can come together in the same space, but something bigger: A way for all humans, all devices, all realities, purely digital or mixed, to interact with each other. Anything else is simply too small.”
See You in the Cloud
In order to get to this level of XR connectivity, especially when it comes to the use of holographic technology, technical advances are required. Xuan Zhu, Chief Engineer of Integrated Solutions at ZTE, is sure we will find answers in the cloud.
And with the help of technologies such as 5G and WI-Fi 6, he says that the cables connected to devices can be removed. At the same time, users will be provided with better accuracy and higher bandwidth, making holographic projections more likely to help.
It will make for cheaper solutions as well. According to Zhu, cloud rendering can reduce capital expenditure by 30% while delivering content faster with 5G and multi-access edge computing. All these ingredients will form the recipe for an intrinsic change in how we communicate.
“Human beings have been communicating since the beginning of time. The holographic reality has created a fully immersive digital border, but it’s still at its early stages. There are many great technologies to be commercialised [ahead],” he said.