My mother-in-law is used to seeing me always carrying a new gadget. She was there when I strapped on my first smartwatch in 2013, and she’s seen me excitedly try out new camera lenses that attach to my phone.
But it was different the time I first showed her a virtual reality headset. After she cautiously strapped the $199 Oculus Go on her head, the screen in front of her eyes lit up, transporting her to my living room floor in San Francisco. She moved her head and could see the sofa behind her, some art on the walls and toys scattered on the floor.
Then she saw my wife holding out her arms as our son took his first steps toward her. My mother-in-law, awestruck, instinctively reached out with her hand but she remained stuck in place, unable to move closer. That was as real as the headset could get.
But with, she won’t just be able to move her head closer to get a better view of her next grandchild’s first steps, she may be able to walk along side him too.
This is one of the more dramatic examples of the types of technologies coming to the gaming and entertainment world in the next few years. Other innovations, like cloud streaming games filled with more-immersive and -detailed worlds, may become more widely used as well.
Much of these advances are tied to new superfast 5G wireless technology, which promises internet connections as much as 100 times speedier than what our smartphones get today. It’s also more reliable and responsive, thanks to lower latency, a term to describe the lag time for data to go from a handset to a cell tower, then the internet, and back again. 5G promises to reduce latency from 20 milliseconds today to as little as 1 millisecond with 5G, or about the time it takes for a flash of a camera. Between those two changes alone, you could potentially download an entire television series from the internet in seconds.
5G won’t just change the way we watch TV though. Within a few years, it’s expected to do things like allow doctors to performfrom . 5G is also expected to boost technologies like self-driving cars, which need to not only sense the world around them, but also communicate with each other and internet networks to trace their route and identify any hazards along the way.
And in entertainment, VR companies such as Facebook’s Oculus division and game developers such as Microsoft say they’re experimenting with creating bigger worlds, full of details that would be too visually taxing for today’s devices to display.
“It’s about unlocking all that potential,” said Marija Radulovic-Nastic, senior vice president of development technology and services at game maker Electronic Arts. “We envision the future where games offer immersive experiences, where they offer living, breathing worlds — worlds that feel dynamic and personalized.”