The E3 conference, recently held in Los Angeles, California, showcased 270 exhibitors with over 1,600 products. One of the biggest draws at the show was virtual reality (VR), including some exciting new VR games like VR Minecraft, ADR1FT and Edge of Nowhere.
Some of the major players in the head-mounted display market include Facebook, Sony, Samsung, Nintendo and Oculus. Samsung has the wireless Samsung Gear VR which could take over a majority of the 1.2 billion mobile gamer market.
Oculus stands to gain traction from Facebook’s 1.3 billion subscribers as they start to take advantage of VR. Oculus is scheduled to launch for the Xbox One at the beginning of 2016. Google is also involved in the VR industry and offered up $542 million in funding for Augmented Reality’s Magic Leap.
With these major backers, it’s easy to understand why virtual reality is growing. “As unit sales increase, total hardware revenues grow to $1.4bn in 2015 (from 5.7m purchased devices), through to $2.1bn 2016, and $2.4bn in 2017,” according to the consulting firm KZero.
VR: An old concept (with new technologies)
If it seems like people have been discussing VR since forever, it’s probably because science fiction has contained VR references for many years (Star Trek Holodeck anyone?). The first real VR system was created by Morton Heilig in 1962 when he received a patent for the Sensorama Simulator. The device played 3-D film with stereo audio, used wind generators and provided an array of aromas to create the first virtual-reality experience.
VR has been used for training in the aviation and military industries. VR also shows great potential in medical and education sectors. Of course, VR is popular in the gaming and social media industries as well.
A big problem with large files
As the popularity of virtual reality and 3-D videos continues to grow, how will it affect users that want to stream these large files on the web? At 60 frames per second, a 4K video can consume roughly 1 GB to 10 GB per minute while recording. A 20 minute video file can consume around 100 gigs of space.
While these files can be streamed, we still have the problem of access. Can you imagine having to wait for a 3-D simulation to load from a server on the other side of the world? There needs to be a better solution.
CDN to the rescue
Imagine you’re sitting in your living room and browsing a website for your favorite game developer in Australia. You realize that they have a virtual reality video of a new game you want to explore. You quickly put on your new virtual reality headset and click the link.
…and wait while the file is streamed from Australia to your location. Once the virtual-reality presentation starts, you get excited thinking you’re finally going to see the new game up close before making your purchase. However, the lag time is so bad, the video stops five times during the presentation until you finally give up and take the headset off in frustration.
These large video files, along with other types of content, need to be accessed quickly in order to maintain a realistic VR simulation. With 3-D and VR, this type of latency can cause users to leave websites and quickly move to a competitor. These delays can cost companies their customers who are not willing to wait in a 3-D reality that hangs.
When using a content delivery network (CDN), your virtual reality videos are replicated across high-speed networks that are scattered all over the world. This means no matter where you access the server, it is in the same region. You get videos served close to your visitors.
You will improve your global availability while at the same time reducing bandwidth. CDNs also address the problem of latency when dealing with large VR and 3-D files.
Not all CDNs are created equal, especially when dealing with large file sizes. A big factor is the distance from the CDN to your users. That’s why it’s critical to select a reliable CDN who has an extensive network with multiple points of presence (PoPs) located throughout the world but most importantly, located where you need them most.
Since CDNs replicate data across multiple sites, they can guarantee close to 100% availability. Even if a massive outage were to occur in one region, other sites are already available to take over the load. This provides a level of assurance that is not possible with servers confined to one data center.
Virtual-reality and 3-D video are going to create some interesting challenges for companies producing the content as well as their content delivery networks.
Without CDN, consumers are likely to see increased slowness and latency with large files. This will translate to users that have invested in expensive virtual-reality equipment being distressed because of slow streaming speeds. By placing the content closer to the user (closer to the edge), you’re going to have happier gamers with better response rates.
CDN providers that have invested in the locations and bandwidth to support these high utilization users will likely benefit from their infrastructure investment.
The growing popularity of VR illustrates the dedication of some major software and hardware vendors that are investing in the technology. VR content producers will inevitably create the large files required for these immersive realities. CDN will be needed to replicate these large files over the globe to provide the speed and accessibility required to make the virtual realities realistic.
It’s an exciting time for gamers, VR hardware, software and content producers as we all benefit from these expanding technologies. Finally, by working with the right CDN, we can spread the media across the globe making it available to everyone.