4K VR movies might soon be something you can stream into your car via 5G network technology

by on February 24, 2016

Stephan Jukic – February 24, 2016

According to auto industry and network technology experts, passengers in the driverless cars of the very near future may soon be able to stream 4K ultra HD video straight to virtual reality headsets in their vehicles thanks to ultra-fast 5G mobile internet technology.

While this may indeed sound like one of those fluff predictions that doesn’t end up coming to pass any time soon, in this case we can at least argue that much of the technology in question is already here and ready for integration.

This past Monday, at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain, Samsung started the most recent speculation in this direction off by announcing that it has partnered with Verizon to present to the public some “real world use” cases for their new 5G Network equipment.

During the trial run by the two companies, Samsung showed to audiences a demonstration of 4K ultra HD video content being transmitted over the air to an automobile. Thus, as future cars become driverless, streaming video entertainment (and preferably in 4K) to the passengers of these cars could become very popular. Of course, with this assumption, there is also the very big if of how much of a future driverless cars will indeed have, but that’s a secondary point here, since even if driverless technology fails to take off, passengers in normal cars and many other situations could still use this technology.

In any case, some other tech factors bear mentioning: 5G is the next-generation technology for mobile internet devices like smartphones and other display platforms, which will not only power these machines but also what is now being called “the internet of things” (IOT), which includes smart cars, household appliances and assorted other entertainment and consumer use electronics.

Furthermore, the number of IOT devices that will be found in the consumer landscape by 2020 is expected to hit some 38 to 39 billion, up for the 13.4 billion currently, at least according to some recent findings from the company Juniper Research.

With these stats in mind, the possibility of 5G integration is a major potential factor and something that industry is pushing forward with earnestly, with the year 2020 commonly considered to be the “deadline” for the arrival of 5G networking across numerous devices. However, this new mobile broadband speed still has no global standards, which is something that will first have to be ironed out before we really see cool IOT devices with 5G networking hit the consumer scene.

As for 5G itself, it offers the potential for lower latency rates, and the consequently faster delivery of data packets between network points. In other words, more data could be delivered more quickly and as a result, streaming 4K video in VR would become a serious possibility, for cars and for numerous other entertainment applications.

During a keynote speech at the MWC 2016, Alex Jinsung Choi, chief technology officer for SK Telecoms, explained that, “The virtual experience will be the most appealing 5G use case and the customer will be able to feel the real difference between 4G and 5G”.

Furthermore, device makers from Samsung to LG are working on their own versions of VR hardware and platform technology, while social media sites like Facebook have already started allowing 360 degree VR video to appear on their pages. The eventual development of this technology will possibly mean consumer users live streaming such video, and ideally in ultra HD, through their smartphones and VR Headsets.

The vehicle used for the Samsung/Verizon 5G 4K VR video deom

The vehicle used for the Samsung/Verizon 5G 4K VR video deom

It should also be noted that streaming VR is quite a different animal from a conventional Netflix 4K stream. With VR, the 360 degree panorama of the content has to be stitched together from numerous different videos for a single dimensional image and this means some seriously heavy data transmission requirements happening quickly for a smooth experience.

Samsung and Verizon have already shown off how this is possible, by doing their live stream of 360 degree VR 4K content from 17 different video feeds being stuck together but again, this is all just experiment technology for now. Before it comes to VR feeds in driverless cars as real entertainment, or gets used for truly immersive gaming applications, quite a bit more work needs to be done.

However, while VR in this new form is still in its baby stages and 5G is still just a horizon technology, the horizon is a near one by the looks of it and both standards are actively being developed, with proof of concept already in the bag. As for 4K Video itself, it’s not just here, it’s also quickly taking over the high-end video entertainment landscape.

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