The worlds of entertainment and telecommunications continue to blend as technology has enabled a wealth of applications and services that cross both industries.

The introduction of broadband services gave rise to internet TV – most notably, streaming video services such as Netflix. While the introduction of smart devices, such as the iPhone, forever changed the landscape of entertainment. These devices have enabled every individual to become a content creator – while apps such as Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube have created an entirely new ecosystem for content distribution and the revenue generated by it.

In the past, most individuals consumed their entertainment by listening to the radio, going to the movies and watching television. While all of these forms continue to exist today, the type of content and how users consume that content has widely expanded.

For broadband operators (whether telco or cable), continuous network upgrades to offer faster speeds has fully enabled this new pattern of consumption. As such, we’ve seen a wave of acquisition activity where telecommunications companies have purchased media and entertainment companies. Examples such as Comcast + NBC; AT&T + Time Warner; and Verizon + AOL + Yahoo demonstrate the need for telecommunications operators to find new and different ways to build relationships with their customers beyond simple connectivity.

The recent AT&T SHAPE event offered an opportunity to showcase how 5G networks and mobile edge computing can be leveraged to enable a variety of mixed reality and immersive media that will transform all modes of entertainment including digital media, film, television, and gaming.

Entertainment 2.0: Redefining the experience

The benefits of the future 5G network have been well documented. By offering gigabit or faster speeds and sub-millisecond latency, applications such as virtual reality and augmented reality will be just that: a reality; and will finally live up to their lofty expectations.

With the costs of both compute and storage dropping significantly and with more information stored in the cloud, developers will be able to think differently about data and use artificial intelligence and analytics to create new experiences.

Combine these capabilities with advanced camera technologies such as volumetric cameras, haptic telepresence interfaces and 360˚ video system to capture and live stream spherical imagery, as well as advanced sound offered from binaural microphones and autonomous drones capturing live, real-time data from a physical location, entertainment will become more personal and immersive.

Users will have the opportunity to be “part of the action” by having the ability to choose their vantage point and perspective, such as viewing the action from the point of view of the player themselves. And with virtual reality they can experience the role of the actor as if they were playing the role.

Everyone is a content creator

The introduction of easy-to-use digital artist tools and advanced network technologies will enable anyone to create and access virtual experiences from a rapidly growing number of devices and platforms. And thanks to the 5G network, this content can easily be uploaded to the cloud for distribution across a number of mediums without the need for traditional distribution channels.

For example, Ubiquity6 has developed a platform that allows users to turn any location into a space for real-time, shared AR and VR experiences. Using real time 3D mapping, photogrammetry, multi-user localization, and deep learning for semantic segmentation, Ubiquity6 has a developed an app that allows a smartphone camera to make a 3D map of any room or space. Using deep learning it will recognize floors, walls, and furniture to create a virtual shared space. The goal is to create a new form of social media where friends, families, and communities of interest will gather and interact by turning real physical spaces into virtual spaces for shared AR and VR experiences as well as opening the possibilities for new kinds of live performances and talk shows.

In addition, new wearables and sensor networks are expected to transmit not just sight and sound but also touch, taste, and even thought, in perceived real time (perhaps the time is finally right for “smell-o-rama”).

The possibilities are endless.

The role of blockchain in entertainment

No blog would be complete without mention of blockchain, but it will likely play a fairly large role in the future of entertainment – an industry that has been particularly challenged by piracy issues, costing it billions of dollars annually, which of course get passed on to the consumers in the form of higher costs.

While blockchain technology will likely be used as a financing tool for new movies, its initial uses will be to address problems surrounding content access, distribution and compensation, as well as managing assets and digital rights, all in an effort to combat the revenue losses attributed to piracy.

Another near-term use for blockchain in entertainment is to validate authenticity – such as event tickets, merchandize and memorabilia. An example is BitTicket in the United Kingdom, which uses blockchain to manage the sale of public event tickets. By using blockchain, it can trace every ticket from initial sale to event entry, including aftermarket transfers; offer the customer confidence that the ticket they have obtained is genuine (counterfeit-proof tickets); cryptographically secure sale and resale rules using smart contracts; and provide a level of control and protection to the user, the venue and the artist.

See me. Feel me. Hear me. Touch me.

If you’re a Who fan, you might recognize this song from the Tommy album. But these words will take on new meaning in the world of entertainment 2.0. No longer will holographic images be relegated to episodes of Star Trek. And, instead of watching a film from a single point of view, users will be able to become part of the action. The opportunities are endless and the amount of data and processing power will be enormous. But with 5G on the horizon – a network that holds the promise of vast capabilities – what was once thought of as only found in science fiction is slowly but surely becoming a reality. As they say: the future is bright – wear a VR headset!