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Two major ways that 5G will enhance entertainment

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This article is the second in a series that will explore the role of 5G and its potential impact on various forms of entertainment.

5G touts faster data speeds, lower latency and response times, and security that will usher in the next evolution of experiences.  As we move towards a time when our environment adapts to us vs. us inputting into it, how we experience entertainment will shift as well.  

A lot of fun experiences we have with friends and family are meant to be enjoyed at a physical location – be it an exhilarating roller coaster ride or a show at your local movie theater. When 5G-enabled devices become more mainstream, so will the ability to merge the physical and the digital to create a much more enhanced entertainment experience.

5G-enhanced theme parks and exhibits

People taking pictures in front of a spaceship replica at the Star Wars Galaxy's Edge experience

Some argue the original virtual reality was not through a headset but through immersive themed experiences created by mega theme parks like Walt Disney World. The goal of these experiences has been to take your breath away and to immerse you into a “believable” fantasy world. 

When asked about virtual reality, Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger says, “We’re trying to make it as real as possible with as much scale as possible.” This is evident with the new Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge experience, where guests can step into the world they’ve only seen on screens.

I see three aspects of the theme park experience that can be greatly enhanced with 5G’s ability to support millions of sensors with lower latency: enabled wayfinding, enhanced content, and enhanced simulation.

Enhanced Wayfinding

One of the major benefits of 5G connectivity is improved triangulation. Combine this with higher data speeds and lower latency and you can achieve real time-location tracking.  Apply this to the sprawling grounds of a theme park and you can begin to create enhanced wayfinding experiences.

We’re already seeing some of this today. An interesting enhancement at Google’s I/O developers conference in 2019 was having the ability to overlay augmented reality waypoints to easily navigate the event. This included key landmarks, the distance towards experiences, interactive augmented reality installations, and food services.

screenshots of the Google I/O app placing augmented reality location pins on real-time video footage
The Google I/O Developers conference in 2019 featured overlayed augmented reality location pins, so visitors would never be lost. 

5G makes it possible to scale these visual overlay experiences so that an entire theme park becomes an interactive canvas.

Enhanced Proximity Content

Enhanced wayfinding gives you the ability to append a location with additional digital experiences for the user.  It will be possible to transform wait times for rides by creating proximity-based content experiences. For example, standing in line for a specific ride at a Disney Park could unlock extra scenes from a film, or a mobile game that guests can play to pass the time. 

With 5G-enabled proximity-based content, how we navigate our world will shift from destination-centric to experience-centric. It will be possible to overlay visual heatmaps to help guide park goers from experience to experience.  This technology would be similar to Foursquare’s Hypertrending app, which was only available to SXSW guests in 2019. Although the company has not announced any plans to launch the app for all consumers, we can see how this enhanced proximity content would let users see all the experiences and events happening around them in real-time.

screenshot of an app called Hypertrending on a phone screen, displaying events in an area and rating heir popularity
Hypertrending was developed by Foursquare for SXSW in Austin, Texas. Users could see all the events in the area and which ones were the most popular.

Enhanced Simulation

As we move from desktop and mobile towards a multi-modal future, 5G will allow for the volumetric capture of the real-world, full-body avatar creation, and virtual assistants that will serve as preference centers for simulation.

For theme parks or exhibits, this could mean the ability to personalize enhanced reality experiences through simulation by understanding key affinities around certain entertainment properties. For example, I am a Star Wars fan, and my affinity towards the original trilogy could guide my experiences throughout the park. What was once the stuff of science fiction now becomes our new reality.

5G-enhanced movie theaters 

Movie theaters have been a prime testbed for new and emerging technology. From the development of surround sound, cinemascope, and even Smell-O-Vision, theaters have been looking for ways to enhance viewing experiences dating back to 1896 with Edison’s Vitascope theater. In more recent years, we have seen the rise of 4D viewing experiences that include motion seats, experimentation with virtual reality, and even augmented reality gaming before showtime.

Engaging Awareness 

To date, viewing trailers for upcoming movies has been a passive experience. Rarely do we as consumers get treated to immersive content prior to a film or series release. Some fans want more from their favorite entertainment properties. 

Recently, streaming shows such as “Stranger Things” have launched AR filters through Snapchat to create a tighter connection with the show.

Ahead of its second season, fans got a kick out of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” Snapchat filter.

For fans that want to go even deeper into these worlds, Alternate Reality Games (ARG) are a path that few have taken, but with great reward. One of my favorite examples of an alternate reality game is the “Why So Serious” ARG tied to The Dark Knight (2008).

In the “Why So Serious” ARG, gamers find themselves in Gotham, where they’re given tasks to complete by the Joker.  

With 5G-enabled devices, viewers can go deep into a world via an ARG prior to a film’s release, while marketers would be able to curate physical and digital experiences to create a movement prior to fans ever stepping foot into a theater. 

Enhanced In-Theater Experiences 

Even pre-5G, movie theaters are experimenting with augmented reality to enhance the in-theater experience. I have been to many movies that featured Noovie ARcade, an AR gaming app that was rolled out to 20,600 screens in 1,700 theaters across the United States.

5G allows you to pre-load an application in lightning-fast time, and will greatly enhance existing AR experiences.  But that’s just the beginning. With smart glasses coming in the early 2020s from the likes of Apple, Facebook, and Google, we will be able to quickly enhance a movie experience similar to the “X-ray” feature from Amazon Prime.  And we’ll continue to see the use of artificial intelligence and edge computing thanks to 5G connectivity in theaters.

The future of entertainment will be radically transformed and enhanced through 5G-enabled devices, seamless connectivity, and the creation of experiences that are designed to keep us entertained for years to come.

Read the first article in this series

5G will unlock the future of live entertainment


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