A s we roll through 2022, it’s time for our annual ritual of synthesizing the lessons from recent history and formulating the outlook for the near term. The past year has been action-packed for spatial computing as the world gradually emerges from the grips of a pandemic.

The past year was also marked by the emergence of metaverse mania. Though it has legitimate principles and promise, the term has been ambiguated through overuse. It’s also been overhyped in terms of the timing of its arrival. A fully-actualized metaverse is decades away.

Beyond the metaverse, AR and VR continue to be defined by steady progress in several areas. We’re talking mobile AR engagement & monetization; AR marketing and commerce; continued R&D in AR glasses; enterprise adoption; and the gradual march of consumer VR.

So where is spatial computing now, and where is it headed? What’s the trajectory of the above subsegments? This was the topic of a report from our research arm, ARtillery Intelligence. Entitled Spatial Computing: 2021 Lessons; 2022 Outlook, it joins our report excerpt series.

Spatial Computing: 2021 Lessons, 2022 Outlook

Force Multiplier

Picking up where we left off last week examining a “real-world metaverse,” one key technology that will enable it is 5G. It will be a force multiplier for geo-local AR killer apps we went over last week, such as navigation and local commerce & discovery. But how will 5G apply specifically?

It brings three main advantages: speed, edge compute, and location precision. Starting with speed, it offers a wider pipe for polygon-heavy payloads. That brings the low-latency that AR needs, while unlocking the next generation of bandwidth-intensive spatial experiences.

Beyond connectivity, low-range / high-frequency 5G networks enable edge compute. This lets AR devices offload CPU and GPU needs to the network edge. They can then shed size, heat and cost – which will come in handy as consumer AR transitions from handheld to faceworn.

There’s also location accuracy. 5G’s high frequency means millimeter-level precision. This compares to GPS’ meter-level precision, which fails in urban areas. This is critical for AR use cases such as holding up your phone (or future glasses) to identify storefronts and waypoints.

Will the AR Cloud Underpin a “Real-World Metaverse?”

Core Infrastructure

One question that emerges is who will deliver all this? And one answer is telecom operators. Because Google and Amazon don’t have data centers every 300 kilometers, infrastructure operated by telcos will have a key role in the geo-spatial AR future, otherwise known as the metavearth.

This carries telcos’ legacy in providing the core infrastructure for the internet itself. That goes back to the desktop era of the web, as well as the smartphone era that’s ruled the past decade. That data delivery infrastructure has and will continue to underpin our connected lives.

Beyond telcos, 5G will be accelerated by other macro factors. For example, the deep-pocketed gaming industry will invest in 5G to enable bandwidth-intensive cloud gaming. That means AR and other 5G-dependent technologies will benefit from accelerated rollouts.

In that way, cloud gaming can be seen as AR’s best friend, as it accelerates necessary 5G investments and deployment. This is analogous to AR-supportive advancements in computer vision that are being driven by the deep-pocketed and highly-motivated auto industry.

We’ll pause there and circle back in the next report excerpt to go deeper on underlying and enabling tech that will support our spatial future… 

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