Optus showcases 5G mixed reality sports streaming use cases

Mixed reality use cases relying on 5G can be accessed by consumers, but the infrastructure is still yet to come, Optus 5G head says.

Optus on Friday showcased various 5G sports streaming use cases at its Sydney headquarters to demonstrate what capabilities are currently possible with the next-generation network.

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In the showcase, Optus partnered with Unbnd, an augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) company, to demonstrate a 360-degree 'virtual theatre' that allows viewers to experience National Basketball Association (NBA) content in either 2D or 3D, such as live games and replays, while also providing access to additional mixed reality information like scores and statistics, as well as the ability to buy NBA products such as basketball jerseys. 

The streaming demonstration was powered by Optus' 5G tower located at its headquarters in Macquarie Park, Sydney.  

The pair also showcased an immersive sportscar racing experience which was streamed to a 5G-capable handset. In that mixed-reality experience, viewers could see three 4K video streams concurrently -- ranging from driver POV streams to the main race coverage -- in addition to real-time statistics such as the positions of race cars on the track map and the speed of each driver that are tracked by Internet of Things sensors. 

According to Unbnd CEO Antony Arena, data such as the condition of a race car's tyres and fuel capacity could also potentially be part of the experience.

"It's a huge win for customers that can access 5G right now, to be able to start to look at [these technologies] as we start to roll these features out," Arena told ZDNet. 

The mixed reality NBA product, called MIA, is already available on the Apple app and Google Play stores. 

Unbnd is also currently in discussions with the NBA about what features would work well in a 5G product with mixed reality content, the company's CEO said.

See also: Optus set for CEO switch in April 2020 as Lew heads to Thailand

While consumers can already access this streaming experience via their mobile devices, Arena noted that 5G is still not widespread. What this means, according to Ubnd's CEO, is the ability to experience this kind of streaming at its optimal state is not achievable for most consumers yet as infrastructure for 5G is still being rolled out.  

"We're waiting for a particular tipping point … it's at that point we know we can quickly add new features that will take advantage of the network, so it's a bit of a chicken and the egg situation of us deciding when is the right time to start to add something; or we might have to release a standard version of the app as well as a 5G version," he said. 

Whereas Arena described the current 5G reality as one akin to a waiting game, Optus head of 5G Harvey Wright viewed the 5G rollout as being an "evolution not revolution".

"You're going to see progressive advancements and coverage of infrastructure and capability so I don't think it will be a 'big bang' where all of a sudden 5G use cases are there and they're available," Wright told ZDNet.

"I think this is a classic case of ecosystem development because each part of this puzzle is dependent upon the other; so we're building one piece of the puzzle, these guys are content providers, [there are] device manufacturers, and all of that has to sort of evolve and get to a point where it becomes the main form." 

Speaking to what VR developers should focus on when building their use cases, Arena told ZDNet that a key focus should be ensuring that they allow people to engage and interact with their environment rather than just "doing a 360 degree video and calling it VR".

On the telco side of things, Wright said the future of VR would depend on how innovation unfolds and doubling down on what makes most sense for consumers.

"I think you know these guys have got some great insights into different use cases around real estate, music, different sporting content, etcetera. It will depend upon which of those do take off and then basically doubling down on the area that makes the most sense for consumers," he said.

Optus' 5G Home fixed wireless services are currently available for around 138,000 homes. The 5G services kicked off at the start of last year, with customers paying AU$70 per month for unlimited data at a 50Mbps minimum speed guarantee.

On the same day of the 5G showcase, Optus was hit with a AU$504,000 fine for breaking spam laws by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Between 1 June and 4 December 2018, ACMA said Optus had sent SMS and email marketing messages to users that had unsubscribed. The Singtel-owned telco sent "commercial emails in the form of billing notices" without having a way to unsubscribe.

"This is the second largest infringement notice that has ever been paid to the ACMA, and the largest paid for spamming," ACMA chair Nerida O'Loughlin said.

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