Deeper Dive—How Batman is helping prove out 5G, cloud-based mixed reality

Batman taking on supervillain The Scarecrow will be the main event at this year’s Mobile World Congress. And the companies behind it are hoping the fight leads to a new future for immersive entertainment.

AT&T, Ericsson, Intel and Warner Bros. with DC are using 5G technology and edge computing to build a location-based mixed-reality experience featuring the comic book rivals battling it out on the show floor. Visitors will walk into the experience and put on an augmented reality headset. They’ll then watch a 2- to 3-minute experience that pits Batman against The Scarecrow, which was put together in collaboration with Warner Bros. and AT&T.

“The really cool part of the experience is going to be the fact that you have this virtual, digital content being embedded into your physical space. That gives you that mixed reality experience,” said Ade Kushimo, director of business development, IoT and emerging business at Ericsson.

The whole thing is being run on a fully integrated 5G network using Ericsson radio base stations and enabled by Intel Xeon processors and the Intel 5G mobile trial platform. The MWC demo builds upon trials conducted in December 2018 at the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles. Students there helped create a context-aware, mixed-reality experience designed by USC's Mobile and Environmental Media Lab.

Scott Fisher, dean of research at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, said the early trials were about what it actually means to have mixed reality experiences and how creators should go about authoring those types of experiences.

Doug Matheson, vice president of strategic business development at Ericsson, said the proof-of-concept experience at MWC was designed to demonstrate to device manufacturers that 5G technology (both radio and core) could be combined with intellectual property to create a mixed reality experience that’s both mobile and untethered.

“Hopefully the incentive is that device manufacturers take notice and start to realize that a lot of that computing power fits in the edge and allows them to create smaller, less expensive devices,” Matheson said.

5G network technology will help supply the lower latency and higher speeds needed to accomplish mobile mixed reality experiences. The cloud and edge network architecture allows for the heavy computing to be done away from the device. So, the overall goal is to shift processing to the cloud and transport it their using a 5G network.

Looking ahead after the show, Kushimo said Ericsson and its partners are hoping their demo will lead to more 5G-enabled, outdoor mixed reality experiences. He said the companies want consumers to have the same kind of mixed reality experiences wherever there is 5G network connectivity.

Matheson said that good starting points for those types of experiences would be sporting events or theme parks since they are concentrated locations with lots of people looking to be entertained.