In May, Vodafone partnered with Coventry University to become the first UK operator to showcase a ‘Standalone’ 5G network, which was designed to support training for student nurses and allied health professionals.
And just three months after announcing the partnership, lecturers at Coventry University have given their first seminars powered by virtual reality, providing students with remote access to interactive, VR learning for the first time.
“Coventry University is always looking at ways of pushing the boundaries of teaching and learning to improve the student experience,” explained Dr Natasha Taylor, an associate professor at Coventry University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences. “I can put the headset on, and 5G allows the learner to access high-resolution images and videos remotely, anywhere in the world, and [they] are able to ask questions in real-time. This is the first time that 5G Standalone technology has been used commercially in the UK.”
Untethered VR via 5G
To create the network Vodafone teamed up with Ericsson, MediaTek, OPPO and Qualcomm, and it supports network slicing, edge computing, and industry-level support for IoT. And although the VR lessons won’t fully replace teaching, they will provide an immersive extension of the current teaching methodology.
Using a VR headset, elements of the human body can be interacted with from within a virtual environment, which means lecturers can proceed at their own pace, and not have to stick within the confines of a linear, video presentation. And best of all, for the lecturers at least, the VR headsets used within classes have been fitted with 5G technology, which means they no longer need to be tethered to a PC (which as anyone that has used VR knows, is one of its primary drawbacks).
“CloudXR is a new software platform developed to enable streaming of high-fidelity VR to mobile devices,” said Andrea Dona, head of networks at Vodafone UK. “Previously you would have needed a powerful computer directly attached to a VR headset to deliver high-fidelity VR. Vodafone is deploying CloudXR in a 5G network for the first time commercially. In the future, 5G streaming of VR will fundamentally change the way we communicate, educate, work and play.”
Students can access these VR lessons on any connected device – such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop – and are able to ask questions while the lecturer is presenting.