Could this Suffolk project change how we watch sports?
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A Suffolk-based project set to revolutionise the way we watch sport has received nearly £1.5million from the government.
The project, called 5G Edge-XR, will aim to innovate the way sports coverage is viewed through 5G-enabled virtual and augmented reality.
It plans to use 5G to stream coverage of sporting events in virtual or augmented reality alongside the TV broadcast.
For example, a BT Sport spokesman said it could be used during a boxing match.
The live bout would be presented as a virtual hologram on the viewers coffee table in sync with live commentary. Meaning people could view replays from any angle as well as the traditional broadcast.
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Up until now this has not been possible because 4G and broadband create a delay. This can cause virtual reality headset users to get motion sickness.
But the project hopes to remove this delay by reconfiguring the core of the 5G network.
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Much of the work will take place at Adastral Park in Martlesham as the project is being led by BT Applied Research. They are working in collaboration with TheGridFactory, Condense Reality, Dance East, Bristol University and Salsa Sound.
The project has received £1,486,004 from the Department of Culture Media and Sport through a competition for a £30million funding pot called 5G Create.
Matt Warman, the minister for digital infrastructure, said: “We are helping innovative thinkers across Britain use their creativity to harness the power of 5G and boost economic productivity, cut pollution and congestion, and develop the next generation of entertainment.
“The new funding we are announcing today will help us pioneer new ways to seize the opportunities of 5G and bring tangible benefits for consumers and businesses across the country.”
Tim Whitley, managing director of Applied Research at BT, said: “5G Edge-XR will combine cloud computing and EE’s 5G network to support real time services that require uncompromised audio and visuals.
“We’re excited to work alongside world-class British companies to develop a range of prototypes for virtual, mixed and augmented reality and create experiences that will transform culture, education, engineering and entertainment.
“Our prototypes will be designed at Adastral Park and showcased across the UK to demonstrate the benefits 5G technology can bring to people and businesses across the nation.”
Another use case for the project is being provided by Dance East.
The Ipswich-based dance organisations plans to develop virtual reality dance lessons for school children wearing headsets.
Lucy Taylor, head of audience, communications and development at Dance East, said: “What’s so appealing to us about the project is the idea of democratising access to the arts.
“A big thing in this country – and around the world – is that not everyone can access great culture.
“Arts shouldn’t be just if you can afford to pay a huge amount of money.
“This project isn’t just about having the high end, high spec equipment. At some point in the not too distant future most people should be able to access this on their mobile phones or tablets.”
The quality of dance education in schools is a focus for Dance East and this is not the first time they have turned to technology to try and improve it.
“Clearly teachers and education settings are very resource strapped in terms of time and money,” Ms Taylor said.
“Our chief exec went into a school where they were literally sitting and watching a video and there was no interaction, nothing.
“So we started a project in 2016 thinking about how we could improve the quality of dance education.
“It’s too expensive to have good quality dance teachers in school, but we were wondering if we could do it with a mixed model where we were kind of live-streaming teachers into classrooms.
“Over the course of an 18 month project we did start to get to a point where we could imagine a situation where you could effectively have children feeling like there was somebody in the room, and that would engage them.
“This project will hopefully be an extension that.”