Virtual reality (VR) has quickly become a household term. There are lots of gadgets and apps that let you take control of your viewing experience by letting you watch a film clip in any direction in a head-mounted display or simply by moving your phone or tablet. However, since most of these apps define their own vertical, content has to be adapted for each of them. This also means that many players are motivated to find common ground and define relevant standards for VR content delivery and consumption.
To this end, Ericsson hosted a workshop last week on Virtual Reality Ecosystem & Standards at our Silicon Valley campus in Santa Clara. The goals of the workshop included collecting vision and requirements from service providers and operators, assessing production format constraints, and learning about the various VR 360° standardization efforts that have been initiated by 3GPP, the VR Industry Forum, MPEG, DVB and Khronos.
Exploring the possibilities and challenges of VR
One of the highlights of the workshop was to hear studio execs and content creators presenting their vision of what they want to achieve using VR. We also heard about some of their challenges, namely how to develop new ways of storytelling and attracting attention since in a virtual world there are no passive viewers and listeners but fully interactive participants of an immersive experience. Although VR today mostly focuses on gaming and 360° video, the speakers also addressed other aspects of what is called eXtended Reality (XR) such as AR (augmented reality) and MR (mixed reality), which are also in need of a healthy ecosystem to facilitate adoption.
From device and ecosystem manufacturers we learned that the success of VR will depend on many factors, including device capabilities, high data rates and low so-called motion-to-photon latencies, that is, the time it takes from when a person moves his head until the corresponding image is rendered in front of the eyes. We were happy to hear that many are looking at 5G for answers to these questions, since 5G brings 10-100 times higher end-user data rates, 1000 times higher data volumes and 5 times lower latency than what is available today. In addition, 5G enables full mobility: Who wants to be connecting to a cable when entering a virtual world?
The benefits of VR standards
The need for VR standardization became clear during the last panel during which representatives from MPEG, DVB, CTA, DASH IF, 3GPP and VRIF summed up the takeaways from the workshop. Standards will make it possible to reach different devices with the same content and deliver services to many users in a scalable fashion. However, the first step is to understand use cases, capabilities and requirements of future services so that the right framework and architectures can be developed. This way it should be possible to limit the number of formats and interoperability points, while still accommodating for flexibility and innovation in this quickly developing area.
Ericsson’s media standardization team hosted the workshop which was initiated by 3GPP, now in the process of defining 5G, and organized together with the VR Industry Forum, whose mission is to further the widespread availability of high quality audiovisual VR experiences for the benefit of consumers.
We were delighted to attract nearly 150 participants who also got the chance to experience what VR is all about. Eight companies had brought their latest demonstrations for everyone to try, clearly proving that there is no shortage of applications and inventions in VR.
More information about VR standardization: