Not just speed: 7 incredible things you can do with 5G

You can’t walk around Mobile World Congress  without 5G slapping you in the face. If there’s a phenomenon that’s dominated this week’s trade show besides the return of a 17-year-old phone, it’s the reality that the next generation of cellular technology has arrived. Well, at least it’s real in the confines of the Fira Gran Via convention center in Barcelona.

Above the Qualcomm booth flashed the slogan: “5G: From the company that brought you 3G and 4G.” If you took a few more steps, you could hear an Intel representative shout about the benefits of 5G. If you hopped over to Ericsson, you’d find a “5G avenue” with multiple exhibits demonstrating the benefits of the technology. Samsung kicked off its press conference not with its new tablets, but with a chat about 5G.

Remote surgery via a special glove, virtual reality and 5G

(click on the image to enjoy the video)

The hype around 5G has been brewing for more than a year, but we’re finally starting to see the early research and development bear fruit. The technology promises to change our lives by connecting everything around us to a network that is 100 times faster than our cellular connection and 10 times faster than our speediest home broadband service.

But it’s not just about speed for speed’s sake. While the move from 3G to 4G LTE was about faster connections, the evolution to 5G is so much more. The combination of speed, responsiveness and reach could unlock the full capabilities of other hot trends in technology, offering a boost to self-driving cars, drones, virtual reality and the internet of things. “If you just think of speed, you don’t see the magic of all it can do,” said Jefferson Wang, who follows the mobile industry for IBB Consulting.

The bad news: 5G is still a while away for consumers, and the industry is still fighting over the nitty-gritty details of the technology itself. The good news: There’s a chance it’s coming sooner than we thought. It’s clear why the wireless carriers are eager to move to 5G. With the core phone business slowing down, companies are eager for new tech to spark excitement and connect more devices. “We are absolutely convinced that 5G is the next revolution,” Tim Baxter, president of Samsung’s US unit, said during a press conference.


World’s First Virtual Reality Surgery

Doctors at the Avicenne hospital  (city of Bobigny in the Paris area) have successfully completed the world’s first ever augmented-reality surgical operation using 3D models and a virtual reality (VR) headset.

Doctor Thomas Grégory, head of orthopedic and traumatic surgery at the university teaching hospital, was able to “see through the skin of his patient” before the shoulder operation, through the use of 3D imaging technology and models created from the 80-year-old patient ahead of time.

During the key part of the operation, which lasted for 45 minutes, the doctors in France were joined by video link by four surgeons from South Korea, the USA, and the UK, who provided help via online call programme Skype.

Dr Grégory also performed the procedure while wearing a “mixed reality headset from Microsoft’s Hololens, which he could control with his movements and his voice, allowing him to see 3D images projected onto the anatomy of the patient during the operation, as well as enabling him to consult advisory videos and supporting medical documents. He had begun to practice on the device two months previously, he said.

It was a global first for this kind of operation, and purported to help the surgeons understand – to a much higher degree than normal – what they would find during the surgery, allowing them to prepare more and improve the quality of care overall. The headset also allowed the surgeons to operate with a previously unprecedentedlevel of precision”, that was less invasive, more effective, and less prone to infection after the fact.

The holy grail for a doctor is to [find a way] to see what we cannot see with our own eyes; the patient’s skeleton in every detail. That is what [this allows] us to do,” explained Grégory.


AR Smart Glasses, Next Frontier Of FaceBook

Facebook is hard at work on the technical breakthroughs needed to ship futuristic smart glasses that can let you see virtual objects in the real world. A patent application for a “waveguide display with two-dimensional scanner” was published on Thursday by three members from the advanced research division of Facebook’s virtual-reality subsidiary, Oculus.

The smart glasses being developed by Oculus will use a waveguide display to project light onto the wearer’s eyes instead of a more traditional display. The smart glasses would be able to display images, video, and work with connected speakers or headphones to play audio when worn.The display “may augment views of a physical, real-world environment with computer-generated elements” and “may be included in an eye-wear comprising a frame and a display assembly that presents media to a user’s eyes,” according to the filing.

By using waveguide technology, Facebook is taking a similar approach to Microsoft‘s HoloLens AR headset and the mysterious glasses being developed by the Google-backed startup Magic Leap.

One of the authors of the patent is, in fact, lead Oculus optical scientist Pasi Saarikko, who joined Facebook in 2015 after leading the optical design of the HoloLens at Microsoft.

While work is clearly being done on the underlying technology for Facebook‘s smart glasses now, don’t expect to see the device anytime soon. Michael Abrash, the chief scientist of Oculus, recently said that AR glasses won’t start replacing smartphones until as early as 2022.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has called virtual and augmented reality the next major computing platform capable of replacing smartphones and traditional PCs. Facebook purchased Oculus for $2 billion in 2014 and plans to spend billions more on developing the technology.


Legally Blind People Can See With A New Kind Of Glasses

A Canadian company based in Toronto has suceeded to build a kind of Google glass that is able to give back full sight to legally blind people.  The eSight is an augmented reality headset that houses a high-speed, high-definition camera that captures everything the user is looking at.


Algorithms enhance the video feed and display it on two, OLED screens in front of the user’s eyes. Full color video images are clearly seen by the eSight user with unprecedented visual clarity and virtually no lag. With eSight’s patented Bioptic Tilt capability, users can adjust the device to the precise position that, for them, presents the best view of the video while maximizing side peripheral vision. This ensures a user’s balance and prevents nausea – common problems with other immersive technologies. A blind individual can use both of their hands while they use eSight to see. It is lightweight, worn comfortably around the eyes and designed for various environments and for use throughout the day.

eSight is a comprehensive customized medical device that can replace all the many single-task assistive devices that are currently available but do not provide actual sight (e.g. white canes, magnifying devices, service animals, Braille machines, CCTV scanners, text-to-speech software). It allows a user to instantly auto-focus between short-range vision (reading a book or text on a smartphone) to mid-range vision (seeing faces or watching TV) to long-range vision (looking down a hallway or outsidea window). It is the only device for the legally blind that enables mobility without causing issues of imbalance or nausea (common with other immersive options). A legally blind individual can use eSight not just to see while sitting down but while being independently mobile (e.g. walking, exercising, commuting, travelling, etc).

According to The Wall Street Journal, the company is taking advantages of recent improvements in technology from VR headsets and smartphones that have trickled down to improve the latest version of the eSight. So far, the company has sold roughly a thousand units, but at $10,000 apiece, they’re not cheap (and most insurances apparently don’t cover the product), although eSight’s chief executive Brian Mech notes to the WSJ that getting devices to users is “a battle we are starting to wage.”


How Brain Waves Can Control VR Video Games

Virtual reality is still so new that the best way for us to interact within it is not yet clear. One startup wants you to use your head, literally: it’s tracking brain waves and using the result to control VR video games.

Boston-based startup Neurable is focused on deciphering brain activity to determine a person’s intention, particularly in virtual and augmented reality. The company uses dry electrodes to record brain activity via electroencephalography (EEG); then software analyzes the signal and determines the action that should occur.


You don’t really have to do anything,” says cofounder and CEO Ramses Alcaide, who developed the technology as a graduate student at the University of Michigan. “It’s a subconscious response, which is really cool.”

Neurable, which raised $2 million in venture funding late last year, is still in the early stages: its demo hardware looks like a bunch of electrodes attached to straps that span a user’s head, worn along with an HTC Vive virtual-reality headset. Unlike the headset, Neurable’s contraption is wireless—it sends data to a computer via Bluetooth. The startup expects to offer software tools for game development later this year, and it isn’t planning to build its own hardware; rather, Neurable hopes companies will be making headsets with sensors to support its technology in the next several years.


Virtual Images that Blend In And Interact With The Real-World

Avegant, a Silicon Valley startup that sells a pair of headphones equipped with a VR-like portable screen, is breaking into augmented reality. The company today announced that it’s developed a new type of headset technology powered by a so-called light field display.


The research prototype, which Avegant eventually plans on turning into a consumer product, is based on the company’s previous work with its Glyph projector. That device was a visor of sorts that floats a virtual movie screen in front of your eyes, and developing it gave Avegant insight into how to build an AR headset of its own.

Like Microsoft’s HoloLens and the supposed prototype from secretive AR startup Magic Leap, Avegant’s new headset creates virtual images that blend in and interact with the real-world environment. In a demo, the company’s wired prototype proved to be superior in key ways to the developer version of the HoloLens. Avegant attributes this not to the power of its tethered PC, but to the device’s light field display — a technology Magic Leap also claims to have developed, yet has never been shown off to the public.

The demo I experienced featured a tour of a virtual Solar System, an immersion within an ocean environment, and a conversation with a virtual life-sized human being standing in the same room. To be fair, Avegant was using a tethered and bulky headset that wasn’t all that comfortable, while the HoloLens developer version is a refined wireless device. Yet with that said, Avegant’s prototype managed to expand the field of view, so you’re looking through a window more the size of a Moleskine notebook instead of a pack of playing cards. The images it produced also felt sharper, richer, and more realistic.

In the Solar System demo, I was able to observe a satellite orbiting an Earth no larger than a bocce ball and identify the Big Red Spot on Jupiter. Avegant constructed its demo to show off how these objects could exist at different focal lengths in a fixed environment — in this case a converted conference room at the company’s Belmont, California office. So I was able to stand behind the Sun and squint until the star went out of focus in one corner of my vision and a virtual Saturn and its rings became crystal clear in the distance.