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Huawei demonstrates 5G and Cloud VR, with some caveats

Huawei and Cloud VR with 5G

Huawei is making strides demonstrating their 5G capabilities around the UK. From launching trucks to pushing social media, the Chinese corporation wants to position itself as the de facto leader. As part of the campaign, the company attended the Goodwood Festival of Speed to show how 5G impacts multiple areas – including Cloud VR.

Huawei invited Virtual Perceptions to try out their Cloud VR capabilities at their 5G truck, near the racecourse of the event. While the future of 5G and VR is bright, the experience has major caveats that ultimately hamper the demonstration. The biggest issue? No 5G at the site that day.

What is Huawei doing with Cloud VR?

Huawei wants to create a seamless experience with VR. While VR can run on the cloud, including live streaming, content creation, and gaming, there are several barriers to knock down. One is latency or the delay between the action and the corresponding output. For example, the lag between the button press and the relevant action is the latency lag. In September 2018, Huawei laid out the specifications and plans in the Cloud VR Solution white paper.

Additionally, customers need high-end hardware to run the best VR experiences. Hardware is a significant barrier of entry for those who want the very best experiences but limited by cheap equipment.

The solution to the issues is 5G and the cloud. 5G can cut the lag between input and output while giving low-spec hardware – such as smartphones – the potential to run more extensive applications. The equipment that does the heavy lifting is in a database, not at home.

Huawei summarised the potential with the phrase “thin client + broad pipe + cloud app.” Effectively, the future model is that telco networks deliver powerful cloud applications, to light devices with limited hardware capabilities. Think of it as cheaper headsets running powerful games, helped by the network.

The Huawei 5G truck
Photo: James Coghlan

How did Huawei show these capabilities at the Goodwood Festival of Speed?

At the truck, Huawei demonstrated their Cloud VR capabilities with a setup. Users wear an Oculus Go and strap into a rotating chair, where they use their body weight to lean left, right, up, and down. The goal was to collect 4G and 5G coins while flying through space, through a canyon, and underwater. The applications ran through the network Huawei ran at the event.

Why demonstrate this at the Goodwood Festival of Speed? Victor Zhang, Huawei Global President of Public Affairs said: “Huawei’s demonstration of fast-paced 5G connectivity is fitting with the festival’s own philosophy of breaking boundaries and pushing speed to its limits.” Makes sense.

The Oculus Go game ran smoothly, showing how VR apps can run on the cloud. Overall, it was a fun game to try out. It also made for some funny poses while we tried it out.

However, the experience was also an illusion. The Oculus Go was not connected in any way to the chair, meaning that any tilts and turns on the chair had no impact on the game. While it simulated flight, it had no gameplay impact.

However, the biggest issue was the set-up.

Goodwood House
Photo: James Coghlan

Lack of 5G at the event

A spokesperson at Huawei confirmed that the truck ran on a WiFi network that weekend, not 5G. While they showed use cases with Cloud PC, Cloud VR, and Cloud Gaming, all of them ran on a superfast WiFi network, citing restrictions at the event for using 5G. This makes reviewing the experience tricky, as it is not an actual demonstration of what is possible.

The most critical issue is the latency lag. Over a 5G network, latency would be cut heavily, leading to more immersive experiences. Going over a WiFi network, while powerful, might not mirror the same.

As an example, Huawei demonstrated Cloud Gaming via playing Assassins Creed: Odyssey on a smartphone, run over a network. While it played smoothly, the input lag was palpable; just under a second between input (a button press) and output (swinging an axe). That kind of latency makes or breaks games.

Huawei and the race towards the cloud

Despite these caveats, Huawei is right to focus on the cloud race. Major big tech companies around the world are pushing their cloud capabilities to the limit, and Huawei is providing the software that can rest the wave of the revolution. As one example, both Microsoft and Google are rolling out cloud streaming platforms for their video games. Even Nintendo is looking at the cloud and 5G. Both companies see a future where people run high-fidelity games over a network rather than on their hardware. While the infrastructure is not there yet – few people have the network speeds needed to run Google Stadia – there will be a day in the future when people will. And for that day, Huawei wants to be prepared.  

Huawei is gearing up for a cloud future, setting up VR systems for those with the networks to sue them. While the lack of 5G at the event was disappointing, it still showed the quality that can be brought to games and VR if the connection is fast enough. The real advantage is latency, best demonstrated with a 5G network.