Augmented Reality Drives Need for New Cloud Infrastructure

The potential of augmented reality is massive but despite software development kits including Apple’s ARKit, Google’s ARCore, Amazon Sumerian and Microsoft’s Mixed Reality ecosystem, actual implementations have been limited. That’s because the current cloud infrastructure constrains actual consumer-facing AR projects. The popularity of “Pokémon Go” in summer of 2016 was an example of that; at the first Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago, 20,000 players experienced slowdowns and outages due to constrained network bandwidth.

VentureBeat reports that Niantic chief executive John Hanke, whose company produced “Pokémon Go,” revealed the company is investing in the AR Cloud, “a 3D virtual map that is overlaid on the real world, where information and experiences are tied to specific physical locations.” The AR Cloud would allow users to “visually search the Internet in real time … [but] needs the right infrastructure to support it.”

“In order to deliver this AR-enabled future through the AR Cloud, we will need to dramatically rethink how the Internet is built,” suggests VB.

As the content of the Internet has shifted to video, the cloud infrastructure originally set up as centralized data centers that distribute content to end points has proven insufficient for “latency-sensitive, localized AR applications.” Solutions that rely on GPS are “not accurate enough to ensure that a menu shows up in the restaurant window rather than 10 feet down the road,” whereas AR Cloud offers a 3D virtual world overlaying the real-world “where content is anchored to a physical location.”

What will enable AR Cloud and its reduced latency is the advent of 5G networks that “will push the compute power to the network edge.” Who will lead the change is in question, since “Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have made big investments in the current, centralized cloud infrastructure.”

Edge computing that decreases latency is, however, on the road map of several big tech companies. Amazon software “routes time-sensitive data that it collects from its smart devices … for local processing to decrease latency … [and] Microsoft has similar software in its smart devices.” Facebook’s Edge Computing Project Group “is researching ways to implement services and applications at the network edge,” and AT&T Foundry has a several-mile-wide “edge computing test zone … where developers, startups and companies can test their AR, VR, and cloud-driven gaming apps under AR Cloud conditions.”

Mobile AR/VR startup GridRaster was the first to test in the zone, with “interesting results … including the need to simplify some capture and rendering functions.” In the zone, AT&T is also exploring “use cases for edge computing” for proof of concept in AR applications from autonomous vehicles to tele-medicine.