Producing Virtual Reality: The Broadband Demands

Virtual reality has become real.

Woman in virtual reality

From tech and business to art and education, the rising popularity of VR is changing the way people sell products, tell stories, play games, view their politicians, and more, with products like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung's Gear VR, Playstation VR, and Google Daydream leading the way. A recent Nielsen survey of 8,000 consumers found that nearly 25 percent said they will likely use or purchase VR in the next year, and another 20 percent expressed interest after learning the basics.

The innovations are thrilling: National Geographic is allowing people roaming the streets of New York to experience what it’s like to roam the surface of Mars, thanks to state-of-the-art VR; a charter school is building the nation’s first-ever virtual chemistry lab, in which students virtually "use chemicals like sulfuric acid or mercury or lead that we can’t use with 10th-grade students in actual reality," and can go "all the way into molecules." Meanwhile, Apple is hiring new employees focused on virtual reality and augmented reality (somewhere between reality and virtual reality), in addition to the hundreds of VR and AR workers they already employ; and Hollywood is embracing VR as a groundbreaking new way to tell stories.

VR + NYC

As always, New York City is right in the mix, particularly in the media realm. The New York Times recently announced NYT VR, a collaboration with Google to produce a collection of virtual reality films that can be seen through a Google Cardboard headset concerning news and current events. Earlier this year, The Huffington Post bought the VR company RYOT to expand its content offerings.

In fact, a total of seventeen publisher presentations at this year's NewFronts - in which digital media companies present their platforms to potential advertisers - included VR and AR as areas worth investment.  Additionally, startups focused on VR have been sprouting up throughout New York, including VR sports broadcasting startup LiveLike as well as IrisVR, InsiteVR, Littlstar, and more.

Speed Bump

But whether it’s a major media company or a small startup, working with VR or AR is not always a fast and seamless task. Given the immersive, fast-changing worlds presented by VR technology, upload and download speeds must be lightning fast in order for technologists to create VR content and for users to have a worthwhile experience in them. A Forbes writer even posited that in order for it to accurately represent the human experience, virtual reality would have to transmit data at 5.2 gigabytes per second - the speed humans can process sound and light. 

While that specific number is up for debate, the fact that reliable high speed Internet will be a necessity for VR technology is not. Advocates are already lobbying politicians on the subject, with Larry Irving and Jamaal Simmons writing in Re/code that "virtual reality will require new and upgraded broadband networks, both wired and wireless, that will be capable of satisfying future bandwidth needs of the technology, which consumes massive amounts of data."

A Real High-Speed Resource

Rainbow Broadband has been powering innovative, high-tech New York businesses for over a decade, and can get VR creators set up with a high-bandwidth Internet connection - up to 10 Gbps symmetrical -  in just days or weeks, instead of months. (Yes, that's faster than the aforementioned speed that humans process sound and light!)

As a demonstration of the magic of VR – and how to make it happen – Rainbow Broadband just powered National Geographic’s out-of-this-world exhibit in New York celebrating the release of its new Mars miniseries. The exhibit offers a firsthand look of the Red Planet, with visitors donning VR headsets and hopping into a simulator to experience what it would be like to land on the Red Planet in a spaceship. Visitors were also able to simulate the feeling of roaming the Mars landscape, with VR headsets and anti-gravity treadmills lending to the amazingly authentic experience.

Additionally, you can read here for details on how Rainbow's dependable infrastructure has allowed technologists at the New Museum's forward-thinking incubator, NEW INC, to flourish, for example.

As VR continues to make its way into more studios, offices, newsrooms, labs, and museums, a reliable, ultra-high-speed, symmetrical broadband connection is crucial to making the most out of what VR has to offer.