X Reality (XR), short for extended reality, is the convergence of physical world and digital world experiences. XR is used to describe immersive applications including augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and virtual reality (VR) – used to enhance or simulate real-life experiences. XR technologies extend the reality we experience by either merging the virtual and real worlds or by creating fully immersive experiences.
Deployment of XR applications in education, healthcare, and industrial settings are contributing to strong momentum for XR, with the market expected to grow from $33 billion to $125 billion by 20261. Virtual reality alone has seen a 224% growth since October 20192 as more people upgraded their smart entertainment devices to provide more immersive experiences while working, learning, and socializing from home.
Wi-Fi® will have a significant impact on delivering the full potential of the XR market, providing high-performance connectivity for augmented, mixed, and virtual reality. Work is now underway in Wi-Fi Alliance® to promote innovation and further boost Wi-Fi to deliver connectivity that will help build connections between physical and digital worlds. Recently, Wi-Fi Alliance hosted an XR Opportunity for Wi-Fi discussion featuring panelists from Cisco, Facebook Reality Labs, Microsoft, and Qualcomm. Panelists shared insight into the benefits of Wi-Fi for XR devices, while also acknowledging some of the challenges that lie ahead. Key insights from the discussion include:
Extended reality is transforming our daily lives. New XR use cases for education, healthcare, and business will allow students, medical professionals, and employees to have more impactful, personal, and unique experiences.
Panelist Bruno Cendon Martin, Director of Wireless Technologies at Facebook Reality Labs, believes that there are three walls in XR: the physical, the augmented, and the virtual. The physical is what we experience in day-to-day life. The augmented wall is one with layers. A virtual wall is one that “transcends time and space” and allows you to transition back in forth between realities. Development of new technologies, including portal systems and other Wi-Fi devices, will enable users to be transported through technology and gain a physical presence in another location. Wi-Fi visual headsets and other innovations on the horizon will allow users to be fully immersed in an entirely different world without leaving their home.
Wi-Fi will improve the infrastructure of XR. Advancements coming to Wi-Fi will help build connections across the physical and digital worlds. Panelist Dr. Shirin Ebrahimi-Taghizadeh, Principal Software Engineering Lead for Wireless and Embedded Systems at Microsoft shared that enabling services and solutions extremely relies on having a very stable and low latency wireless solution. Wi-Fi technologies, such as Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E will help provide connectivity to satisfy these demands. Microsoft’s Azure Remote Rendering, for example, allows designs to come to life for developers wanting to collaborate and see the richness of details without physically creating a prototype. Wi-Fi will further allow companies to produce products that surpasses the boundaries of physical limitations.
XR will have a strong impact beyond the workspace. Matt MacPherson, CTO of Wireless at Cisco, points to XR’s impact on various types of education systems, including elementary education, higher education, and health education. With XR becoming the forefront for many teaching efforts, testing and other educational practices are being revolutionized. VR-type implementations, for example, allow students to look at the same image and learn in the same way without needing to be in the same physical location. As XR capabilities grow exponentially, advancements will further advance this use case and allow for more education possibilities. Educators expect a bright future for Virtual Environment Technology (VET) because of the increasing need for tools that will help ease the process of learning and bring it closer to the students’ interests.
Wi-Fi can deliver high-quality, wireless XR experiences. Shishir Gupta, Product Director of XR Connectivity, 6G, and Wireless Positioning at Qualcomm believes that premium XR experiences require high-performance Wi-Fi for four main reasons. The first is low-latency for responsive and lag-free experiences. The second is extreme reliability with advanced features and optimization for sustained XR-class performance. The third is power efficiency to assist rapid and efficient data transfers with advanced power save features. Finally, multi-gigabit speeds allow for instantaneous, massive data exchange which is necessary in XR.
There are attractive opportunities for XR driven by consumer, education, healthcare, and industrial applications. Wi-Fi is already a strong technology player in these markets, making it a natural choice for the future of XR. Wi-Fi Alliance members are working to further the role of Wi-Fi in XR and are working closely with the XR ecosystem to deliver key Wi-Fi applications for augmented, mixed, and virtual reality. Companies involved in developing Wi-Fi solutions for the XR space are encouraged to get involved in Wi-Fi Alliance to help propel the industry forward.
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