How will 5G technology drive innovation in immersive live performances?


Guest blog provided by Huw Sayer, Business Writers Ltd.

Great artists have always pushed the boundaries of possibility in pursuit of new forms of creative expression. Recently we have seen live performers using the latest technology to create immersive virtual experiences for remote audiences. Yet at times it seems that current technology, with its slow internet connections and clunky equipment, can’t keep pace with the human imagination.

Now that might be about to change with the rollout of 5G mobile networks, both in the UK and internationally. Suddenly we are faced with the prospect of mobile data speeds that are up to 100 times faster than current 4G networks. Not only will 5G be able to handle 100 times as much data but – and perhaps most importantly for VR and AR experiences – it will have virtually no detectable delays.

Next, link those faster 5G networks to advances in computer processing power, lightweight batteries, ultra-thin screens and even renewed interest in interactive glasses. What then are the possibilities for ultra-lifelike immersive experiences in real time and at scale? Perhaps our imagination will finally have the tools it needs to express its creativity in a way that makes audiences feel as though they are in the artist’s head.

It was just this topic that brought together around 50 artists, academics and technologists for an EIRA-led Hothouse at BT’s global research centre at Adastral Park in Suffolk. The event was an intense nine hours of talks and discussions exploring the latest developments in 5G technology and what they might mean for creative organisations. The speakers included experts from BT, who talked about how they were keen for artists to use their test-bed facilities to trial ideas for immersive performances.

The group also heard from artists who were already using technology (both low and high tech) to create virtual and augmented reality experiences. Then participants took part in a series of roundtable discussions to share their visions and to discuss the challenges and opportunities of 5G for the creative sector, particularly live performances. They looked at what this might mean for regional theatres, fringe theatres and arts communities, and how traditional producers and audiences might react to the new medium.

To find out more about what was discussed, please read our full report on the day (available as a PDF). You can also catch up on tweets from participants about the event by following our twitter account @eira_earc  and searching for #EIRA5G. If you would like to explore ideas for using 5G in your creative practice, please contact the EIRA team, who will help you identify sources of advice, support and funding.