Virtual Reality comes of age with the Internet of Skills

I’ll never forget the first time I left this reality and moved into virtual reality. At the time, it was something I never wanted to do again.

Best Doctor

I was just about ten year’s old, it was a science museum and it wasn’t my decision; I must have been the oldest kid in the group because I was picked to be the one to demonstrate how VR worked, even though I didn’t volunteer.
I can still remember what it felt to put the headset on. It was the early 90’s, so nothing was streamlined. I remember feeling the weight of it pushing down on me uncomfortably. It was claustrophobia-enducing and smelt like stale sweat. And perhaps more exciting for an awkward pre-teen girl, I was standing in front of a group of strangers completely clueless in an alternative reality of bad 90’s graphic, while everyone else was grounded in the much more comfortable reality of watching someone make a fool of themselves while wearing a large helmet. The instructors asked me to look left. I looked right. They asked me to move forward. I stumbled around backwards. It was disorientating and I was so happy to take it off and vow to never step into the VR world again.

Since then, I have been keen to assign VR to one of those areas that everyone said was going to be big but never was—like 3D TVs. But some things that are coming out with some of our partners is making me rethink everything…

One of these is the Internet of Skills. You see, we have been working with King’s College London on 5G for around two years and one of our newest proof points is nearly ready for the spotlight at Mobile World Congress 2017 — and VR has a starring role. We are calling it an example of the Internet of Skills and, along with King’s College London, British Telecom and Room One Labs, we are taking VR from fun to fundamental. The demo centers around a 5G medical use case, where visitors slip on a VR headset and a haptic glove to become doctors performing surgery on remote patients. The glove controls a robotic finger on the patient-side and can identify cancer tissue and send information back to the surgeon as haptic feedback.

The case demonstrates the need for extremely low latency brought about by 5G, the power of partnerships in future technological development, and perhaps most strikingly the notion that VR is not mere entertainment but can instead be used to save lives.

In previous years at Mobile World Congress, we saw a number of 5G use cases that included VR—perhaps the most famous among them was the Connected Digger, whose basic concept was to enable people to remotely control machines with extreme performance requirements over vast geographical distances. Take a look at the video below to understand what I mean:

At this year’s Mobile World Congress, I do not expect the Internet of Skills to be the one place in the Ericsson booth that uses VR in a totally new way but who knows? Perhaps we will have enough places available to take everyone on a VR tour. All I know for sure is that this time around, I am going to be first in line.

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