Forecasts from hi-tech consulting firm Juniper Research on Virtual Reality suggest that wireless VR headsets (smartphone-based and standalone) data consumption will grow by over 650 per cent over the next four years, from nearly 2,800PB (Petabytes) in 2017 to over 21,000PB in 2021.
The new research, Virtual Reality Markets: Hardware, Content & Accessories 2017-2022, found that data consumption will reach over 28,000PB when combined with traffic generated by VR headsets tethered to PCs and consoles, placing significant additional strain on both wired and wireless networks.
VR requires fast data speeds to stream content effectively and, by 2021, the data demand of each VR device is expected to exceed that of 4K, according to Juniper. This will be driven by the need for higher image quality and frame rates, a developing problem as VR becomes more mainstream.
In order to make VR more accessible, the Juniper report recommends bringing network operators and broadband providers into the VR standards conversation now. Juniper argues that the future data demand needs to be taken into account when considering specifications like minimum frame rate and resolution. In addition, technologies which reduce the amount of data processing, like foveated rendering, need to be rolled out and become universal.
The research also found that social VR is on the rise. Facebook and WeChat are currently developing VR platforms and several VR games, most notably Star Trek: Bridge Crew, have social elements. These platforms are designed to bring more users into the VR ecosystem by offering new social interactions.
“VR is currently seen as very isolating,” remarked research author James Moar. “The promise of having new worlds to explore is much more compelling when other people can share the experience, which needs social games and social interfaces, as well as the development of cross-platform standards.”