Space satellites can help advance virtual and augmented reality technologies, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).
By using satellite communications, Earth observation, and navigation data, VR and AR experiences can be extended beyond the reach of terrestrial networks, feature live mapping and provide specific location-based information.
One example is the ESA-supported CapeOutdoors3D, a 3D virtual reality mobile app designed to be used by both tourists and wildlife rangers.
The app overlays satellite maps of South Africa with location-tracked recreational information, such as hiking trails and weather information, as well as fire risk spatial data for wildlife park management. The Western Capetown can have limited terrestrial network coverage but the app circumvents this, showing the very latest satellite-generated information on top of a 3D, HD and realistic representation of the landscape, regardless of when or where it is accessed.
Another ESA co-funded project, Wildwego, is an AR-based game for people visiting national parks. It offers information about the flora and fauna surrounding the player as they travel through the park, with the option to share the experience with friends.
Immersive technologies can also help organisations prepare for dangerous situations, such as emergency response or demining, and practise how to respond. Satellite imagery allows a true-to-life exercise in which various scenarios and potential mitigating actions can be tested and rehearsed in a safe environment, without any danger to life.
One reason why VR and AR applications are not already in widespread use is that current 4G networks lack sufficient capacity, responsiveness and coverage.
Next-generation connectivity with 5G will offer more capacity, security and lower latency and, with the help of satellites, can spread always-on, ultra-fast connectivity across the globe, supplementing terrestrial networks, ESA said.
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