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What’s in store for the media tech industry in 2023: AR, VR, and the metaverse

Why the biggest battles of 2023 could be around the use of augmented reality, and 5G and multi-access edge computing (MEC) could play a decisive role in providing the necessary bandwidth, low latency, and high concurrency required for the massive adoption of smartphone AR experiences

The third part of our look at the possible challenges and highlights the media technology industry may face in 2023 focuses on everything from augmented reality to the metaverse.

TVBEurope invited a number of technology vendors to share their thoughts on everything from why the biggest battles of 2023 could be around the use of augmented reality, and how 5G and multi-access edge computing (MEC) will play a decisive role in providing the necessary bandwidth, low latency, and high concurrency required for the massive adoption of smartphone AR experiences.

Ram Sarup, product marketing specialist, Canon EMEA

Today, there is a need for more creative content than ever before. To meet this need, production crews are striving for workflows that are agile and enhanced, spurring the emergence of three key trends: the use of adaptable ecosystems, the arrival of VPoD (virtual production on demand) and the rise of the metaverse.

In terms of adaptable ecosystems – more than a lifeline during the pandemic – virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) productions are becoming popular means of unique, high-quality, and efficient content creation. The challenge now lies in standardising tools and processes to allow virtual productions to prioritise creativity over integration issues. 

Additionally, the use of high-resolution LED walls in extended reality (XR) productions is becoming an easy way to replicate life-like backdrops and therefore produce powerful content across a range of applications, without having to leave the studio.

In 2023, different types of VR and AR production will remain high on the agenda as the industry continues to push the boundaries and experiment with new storytelling formats through different combinations of computer-generated content and real life. This means that imaging solutions and technologies will similarly need to be future-proof, able to seamlessly integrate within these evolving workflows and keep up in a content-rich world. 

Valérie Allié, video solutions group director at Interdigital

2023 will see the release of the latest standards under 3GPP Rel 18, providing new Quality of Service and Key Performance Indicator enhancements that may encourage more players to invest in research about how this might improve XR experiences. Specifically, 3GPP’s 2023 research priorities include optimizing Down Link and Up Link XR traffic in the network to improve user experience, specifying XR-specific power saving techniques, capacity enhancements through resource allocation and scheduling, and standardization of codec for Immersive Voice and Audio Services. Further enhancements related to power savings, latency improvements, increased capacity to support higher data transmission, and several other areas will continue to enable XR ecosystem in 5G Advanced and 6G.

VR and XR devices are still incumbered with bulky headsets and the ability to cause motion sickness. To address these issues, it’s likely that we will see more players investing in research to improve XR experiences. We’ve already seen major companies launch virtual headsets [such as Facebook’s launch of its Meta Quest 2] which despite having an impressive toolkit, still have yet to grasp the mass market.

Researchers and 3GPP Working Groups will continue to explore solutions to deliver higher quality of experience through continuously increasing data throughput, decreasing latency and improving reliability, which are further enabled through access and edge compute technologies. This, paired with the desire for more video-forward digital experiences in 2023, will see more innovation and industry players exploring and sharing XR offerings of their own.

Peter Vindevogel, CEO, The Park Playground

“As VR technology continues to evolve and become more widespread, it is likely that we will see a significant increase in the use of VR for location-based entertainment in 2023 and beyond. With the ability to create immersive, active, and social experiences, VR is well-suited to this type of entertainment and is already being linked to existing TV formats. It is only a matter of time before VR becomes a standard, integrated element of any self-respecting IP format.

Overall, the future looks bright for VR as a technology that will continue to redefine entertainment and other industries. As VR technology improves and becomes more accessible, more brands and creators will explore the potential. We can expect to see an increasing variety of location-based entertainment being developed by top talent and implemented in various creative ways.”

James Eddershaw, managing director of Shotoku Ltd

A trend to watch in 2023 is the continuing growth of seamless VR/AR/XR with high performance LED wall volumes and perfect mixing of reality and virtual. Realtime graphic engines and LED walls technology are critical to this, but so too is camera tracking technology which becomes ever more challenging as the blending of real and virtual becomes more and more nuanced. The ability to significantly simplify the set-up and calibration of these systems will make them more applicable to smaller productions and open to a wider range of broadcasters, not just big budget one-off productions but daily live TV shows.

Martin Klampferer, R&D manager and product owner, Viz Engine, Vizrt 

We expect an increase in virtual production as we move into 2023. Nearly every major network, as well as many other content creators are using XR sets and experimenting with virtual production – it’s guaranteed, accessible, the quality of the tech is there, it’s more sustainable, cost-effective, offers lots of creative freedom and it’s appealing to audiences. 

Take the World Cup for example. Billions of viewers across the globe tuned in. And while networks built large, physical sets onsite outdoors, they used the space within those sets to virtually present statistics and lineups in interactive ways, often using three-dimensional, ultra-realistic graphics like stadium models developed with tech like ours. 

The biggest network battles to be fought in 2023 may be around finding the top talent to create these graphical presentations because the quality of graphics will make or break a production’s ability to capture and harness audience attention. Any media content creator should consider high-quality virtual graphics as they plan for the year’s biggest productions. Better, more accurate graphics equal better audience engagement and higher viewership numbers. 

José Somolinos, solutions strategist and XR lead, Accedo

The AR/VR sector has seen some of the most interesting developments in media technology over the last 12 months. ‘Metaverse’ has been, and will continue to be, a buzzword which sparks curiosity amongst consumers and drives innovation within the video industry. The coming months will see greater adoption of virtual technologies, as content providers seize opportunities to go beyond a flat screen and create deeper connections with their audiences. 

In the sports world, there will be a growing awareness of expansive, virtual environments in 2023. Sports brands and content owners will develop virtual spaces where global fans can connect with each other, and with their favorite clubs. Fans around the world will not need to travel to the match, because the metaverse will bring the atmosphere of the stadium into their living rooms. Up until now AR and VR experiences through mobile apps haven’t fully immersed fans in the action. But new AR and VR technology will put interactive video and branded gaming at the centre of key sporting events.

The metaverse is a rapidly evolving concept, and as virtual and augmented reality technologies become more advanced, it has the potential to become a seamless extension of the physical world. As real-world limitations disappear, the options for personalisation increase exponentially, creating new monetisation opportunities through brand extension initiatives. 2023 will be an exciting year for the metaverse and video service providers will benefit hugely from investing in this area.

Alberto Anaya, vice president of sales, strategic accounts and chief of staff, Qwilt  

Much has been made of the term ‘Metaverse’ in 2022, not least since Facebook’s decision to change its name to Meta Platforms, Inc, to realize its vision of ‘bringing the metaverse’ to life. During the next 12 months new metaverse use cases will emerge in different industries, with entertainment taking a prevalent role in the consumer space.  

One of the first big entertainment opportunities lies in cloud gaming. Xbox will likely remain the primary driver, thanks to its user base and supported regions; evolving closer towards a full mainstream service. This will eventually become a key driver for advanced edge computing capabilities like GPUs, and content delivery networks embedded in service provider networks to ensure gamers have the required quality of experience. 

In the world of sports and events, there is real potential to transform how we use and embrace augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and 3D technologies next year. Following the successful attempts to trial AR within the Fifa+ stadium experience during the World Cup in Qatar, we will see more experimentation and application launches on mobile phones from several sports right-holders, broadcasters, and organizations at major events next year. We could also see VR streaming being used to enable remote experiences of sports and events. I’m also interested to see how 3D virtual events evolve after having started becoming a key new way to deliver virtual events in the last part of 2022, and how these virtual worlds and their delivery is managed, to optimise time to market and quality.

Finally, whether for entertainment or any other industry, the metaverse’s future will depend on innovation in the networks. Through the advent of real-time AR and VR streaming – plus cloud gaming – there will be an inevitable surge in demand for edge computing capacity, and it will become a ‘must-have’ across access network service providers next year. 5G and multi-access edge computing (MEC) will play a decisive role in 2023 in providing the necessary bandwidth, low latency, and high concurrency required for the massive adoption of in-stadium smartphone AR experiences.