Huawei’s online Global Analyst Summit 2020 has seen Shawn Sheng, Vice President of the company’s Handset Product Line, provide updates on key industry and technological trends that were first outlined in the company’s August 2019 Global Industry Vision (GIV).
The company has long advocated that the bandwidth provided by 5G will boost creativity and deliver a wide range of new, chargeable applications – which are encapsulated in its ‘Super Sight’ and ‘Augmented Creativity’ trends that predict how VR and AR will take off by 2025.
The two key enablers to such services though will be the rollout of 5G networks and the availability of devices, with Sheng noting that much progress has been made on both.
In 2019, only eight countries had rolled out 5G, but by the end of 2020 this is expected to have risen to over 130. In the handset market there are now over 300 5G models available compared to 33 in 2019. By the end of 2020, that is expected to have further risen to 500+.
Unlike 4G, where China trailed behind the rest of the world, the country currently accounts for over half the global 5G handset market to date – with Huawei alone rolling out 19 models ranging from mid-priced 2,000RMB (€256) devices to high-end 16,000RMB devices. Sheng acknowledged that mass take-up of 5G services requires more modestly-priced models to be available and said that a range of lower-priced handsets are in the pipeline. Beyond traditional handsets, Huawei has seen 170 per cent growth in wearables YoY, according to Sheng, including its new VR Glass product.
In terms of how Huawei’s GIV predictions are progressing, its ‘Super Sight’ trend predicts the convergence of 5G, VR/AR and ML to let customers see further and to enhance what they see, with the company further predicting that by 2025, 10 per cent of companies will be using AR and VR. While ‘Augmented Creativity’ predicts the mass availability of cloud AI cutting the cost and barrier to entry and opening up creative potential.
While acknowledging that VR has been ‘overhyped’ in the past, Sheng says that Huawei is seeing solid uptake of services. He said that there were now over 10 million users of VR in China, with 160 VR games and apps now available in Huawei’s VR App Gallery, as well as 30,000 hours of HD content.
Meanwhile, on the AR side, Huawei’s Cyberverse adds novel elements to what customers are seeing. These range from ‘real scene guidance’, with creative elements showing customers which way to go, to applications such as ‘fireworks’, ‘streamer curtain wall’ and ‘lucky Koi’, where virtual fish swim through the scene.
Another creative area Huawei is developing is interactive ultra HD experiences, such as Cloud Gaming and the augmentation of sporting events. Huawei’s ‘freeview’ application, for example, allows customers to change the angle at which they view an event in real time. Sheng argues that more freedom equates to more value, with the interactivity increasing customer engagement. This is further enhanced with ‘free zoom’ and frame synchronous multi-view.
Huawei has already supported live broadcasting based on 5G slicing at the MiGu Music Festival, and at the Beijing Expo 2019 with its ‘Wonderland of Mountains and Rivers’ project. The latter is a partnership between China Mobile, CAS-VISION and Huawei which integrates VR, AR, AI and other technology to deliver a landscape for cultural tourism.
Sheng argues that the increased bandwidth and low latency of 5G will open up ‘a goldmine’ of creative potential by 2025, with operators and media firms gaining added value from VR/AR and interactive applications.
According to Teresa Cottam, Chief Analyst at consultancy firm Omnisperience, some of the apps Huawei demonstrated are culturally-specific – such as virtual Koi – but the basic technology it is developing is applicable far more widely and demonstrates how operators and media firms will be able to innovate new, creative and value-adding applications that are both compelling and, more importantly, monetisable. “However, success will depend on the availability of mid-range and lower-priced 5G handsets, which are critical for mass market adoption of such services,” she advises.