UPDATED 09:02 EDT / FEBRUARY 20 2020


Spatial, Nreal, Qualcomm join up to deliver 5G-enabled AR collaboration killer app

A richer way to collaborate using augmented reality over next-generation 5G wireless networks may soon hit the mass market.

AR collaboration software developer Spatial Systems Inc., mobile AR headset maker Nreal and wireless chipmaker Qualcomm Technologies Inc., announced today a joint partnership with wireless carrier market leaders to accelerate adoption of AR collaboration.

Spatial, Nreal and Qualcomm are also partnering up with LG Uplus Corp., KDDI Corp. and Deutsche Telekom AG to feature enhanced AR collaboration with more participants and a richer presence using highly complex 3D content and more diverse formats.

The company believes that its platform, coupled with Nreal’s lightweight, large-field-of-view headsets, will be the first platform and app combination developed for the 5G wireless standard currently rolling out from carriers. It will be enabled by smartphones coming to the market this year powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 and 865 mobile platforms on participating carriers’ 5G networks.

This joint effort is aimed at providing an even more accessible, rich mobile telepresence solution that isn’t limited by physical space.

“Qualcomm is committed to connecting and enabling the ecosystem to make XR the next mobile computing platform and our work with Spatial is an exemplary proof point,” said Brian Vogelsang, senior director of product management at Qualcomm. “With mass deployment of 5G through global operators and XR viewers coming to the enterprise and consumers with partners like Nreal tethering 5G smartphones using Snapdragon, we will transform remote presence through holographic telepresence and virtual collaboration with the Spatial platform in 2020.”

Augmented and virtual reality platforms allow distant teams to collaborate almost as if they are in the same room using telepresence. These technologies make this possible by projecting avatars of other team members into the visual space of a participant, either through the use of holograms in AR, or by creating an entirely new virtual environment in VR.

Doing either can require a great deal of bandwidth to render 3D avatars appropriately and maintain the fidelity of voice, position, gestures and facial expressions. It also requires relatively low latency or the experience becomes jittery and the lack of continuity can make communication difficult or jarring.

That’s why 5G, which offers high bandwidth and low latency, will be absolutely necessary to make mobile AR/VR collaboration effective.

“Consumers will be able to work or interact with anyone, anywhere as if sitting next to each other,” said Spatial co-founder and chief executive Anand Agarawala. “Spatial is already in use and being actively explored by a significant portion of the Fortune 1000. A large part of that interest is driven by improved access to hardware and, as 5G networks and mass-market headsets like Nreal Light become commonplace, we’re throwing jet fuel into that fire.”

Collaboration in AR requires a constellation of different technologies all working together in harmony: the software to orchestrate and display participants, the hardware to project the holograms and virtual environments and the wireless carriers to deliver the bandwidth to share the data at speeds that can keep up.

“This combination of hardware, chipset and carrier giants is a perfect storm for AR just like what drove the mobile revolution in the early 2000s with smartphones, high-speed mobile data and app stores,” said Agarawala.

Spatial has raised $22 million in funding to date, with its latest round of $14 million in January, to develop a rich toolset for remote AR collaboration designed for enterprises so they can turn any room into a 3D workspace.

Image: Nreal

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