IEEE Communications Magazine - June 2017 - page 112

IEEE Communications Magazine • June 2017
0163-6804/17/$25.00 © 2017 IEEE
Just recently, the concept of augmented and
virtual reality (AR/VR) over wireless has taken the
entire 5G ecosystem by storm, spurring an unprec-
edented interest from academia, industry, and
others. However, the success of an immersive VR
experience hinges on solving a plethora of grand
challenges cutting across multiple disciplines. This
article underscores the importance of VR technol-
ogy as a disruptive use case of 5G (and beyond)
harnessing the latest development of storage/
memory, fog/edge computing, computer vision,
artificial intelligence, and others. In particular, the
main requirements of wireless interconnected
VR are described followed by a selection of key
enablers; then research avenues and their underly-
ing grand challenges are presented. Furthermore,
we examine three VR case studies and provide
numerical results under various storage, comput-
ing, and network configurations. Finally, this article
exposes the limitations of current networks and
makes the case for more theory, and innovations
to spearhead VR for the masses.
Leveraging recent advances in storage/memo-
ry, communication/connectivity, computing, big
data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine
vision, and other adjunct areas will enable the fru-
ition of immersive technologies such as augment-
ed and virtual reality (AR/VR). These technologies
will enable the transportation of ultra-high resolu-
tion light and sound in real time to another world
through the relay of its various sights, sounds, and
emotions. The use of VR will go beyond early
adopters such as gaming to enhancing cyber-phys-
ical and social experiences such as conversing
with family and acquaintances, business meetings,
and disabled persons. Imagine if one could put
on a VR headset and walk around a street where
everyone is talking Finnish and interact with peo-
ple in Finnish in a fully immersive experience. Add
to this the growing number of drones, robots,
and other self-driving vehicles taking cameras to
places humans could never imagine reaching; we
shall see a rapid increase of new content from
fascinating points of view around the globe. Ulti-
mately, VR will provide the most personal experi-
ence with the closest screen, providing the most
connected, most immersive experience witnessed
thus far.
AR and VR represent two ends of the spec-
trum. On one hand, AR is based on reality as the
main focus, and the virtual information is present-
ed over the reality, whereas VR is based on virtual
data as the main focus, immersing the user into
the middle of the synthetic reality virtual environ-
ment. One can also imagine a mixed reality where
AR meets VR, by merging the physical and virtual
information seamlessly. Current online social net-
working sites (Facebook, Twitter, and the like) are
just precursors of what we will come to truly wit-
ness when social networking encompasses immer-
sive VR technology. At its most basic, social VR
allows two geographically separated people (in
the form of avatars) to communicate as if they
were face to face. They can make eye contact
and can manipulate virtual objects that they both
can see. Current VR technology is in its inception
since headsets are not yet able to track exactly
where eyes are pointed, by instead looking at the
person to whom one is talking. Moreover, current
state-of-the-art VR technology is unable to read
detailed facial expressions and senses. Finally, and
perhaps the biggest caveat, is that most power-
ful VR prototypes are wired with cables because
the amount of transmitted high-resolution video
at high frame rates simply cannot be done using
today’s wireless technology (4G/LTE), let alone
the fact that a perfect user interface (the VR
equivalent of the mouse) is still in the making.
These shortcomings have spurred efforts to
make social VR happen in the near future. One
of a number of startup companies, Linden Lab (a
screen-based simulation), is getting ready to roll
out a new platform called SANSAR [1], which is a
host for user-created virtual experiences and tools
for VR headsets, standard computer monitors, and
mobile devices. Similarly, the SANSAR world will
function much like Second Life, with people leas-
ing space for their virtual creations, rendered in
3D and at a high frame rate. Likewise, BELOOLA
[2] is building a virtual world designed for social
networking. These recent trends are a clear indi-
cation that the era of responsive media is upon us,
where media prosumers will adapt content dynam-
ically to match consumers’ attention, engagement,
and situation. While some of the VR technologies
are already emerging (VR goggles, emotion-sens-
ing algorithms, and multi-camera systems), current
fourth generation (4G) (or even pre-5G) wireless
cannot cope
with the massive amount of
bandwidth and latency requirements of VR.
Toward Interconnected Virtual Reality:
Opportunities, Challenges, and Enablers
Ejder Ba˛stu ˘g, Mehdi Bennis, Muriel Médard, and Mérouane Debbah
5G N
The authors discuss the
importance of VR tech-
nology as a disruptive use
case of 5G (and beyond)
harnessing the latest
development of storage/
memory, fog/edge com-
puting, computer vision,
artificial intelligence, and
others. In particular, the
main requirements of
wireless interconnect-
ed VR are described,
followed by a selection
of key enablers; then
research avenues and
their underlying grand
challenges are presented.
Ejder Ba¸stu˘g and Muriel Médard are with Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Ejder Bastug is also with Université Paris-Saclay;
Mehdi Bennis is with the University of Oulu; Mérouane Debbah is with Huawei France R&D and also with Université Paris-Saclay.
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