5G: Creating culture in times of confinement

The first time I saw what a real dinosaur would look like it was one of the most depressing days of my life.

As a kid, I used to love everything about them.  I had so many books that I would study religiously, reading them instead of the Famous 5 or the Lord of the Rings–and you should have seen my collection of models too!

The big day happened when I was 17. As a boy from Billingham in the north of England, it was my first ever trip to London. The National History Museum was on the top of my list even then. When I entered the building, I was so overwhelmed. I tried my hardest to take in all the things that I have been wanting to see as quickly as possible but–and here is the but–I then asked myself why did it have to take 17 years for me to see and even feel the things that drove my imagination and desire to learn.

With COVID-19, we are in a similar situation, where museums and galleries were the first to close. Right now, art and historical artefacts feel so far away.

Culture isn’t just something personal, it belongs to all of us. It interacts with every part of our lives, our passions, our ideas – and our innovations. over the last 4 years, Ericsson has been looking at how the arts could benefit from technology, and so how the next generation of connectivity, 5G, could transform culture. And of course, how culture can shape 5G.

This has been driven by a growing ecosystem of experts passionate about intertwining these worlds. It all started with a project called Connected Culture, which had the ambition to show how the three sensory elements of touch, sight and sound could be heightened to make any experience much more immersive. It was led by Ali Hossaini, who has a list of credits to his name – research fellow, dept of Informatics at King’s College London, board member at the Young Vic, writer, lecturer and artist!

The highlight of that project was the first 5G concert between Prof Mischa Dohler and his daughter, where due to the basically real-time connection (what we call low latency), Mischa could play his piano in Germany whilst his daughter sang in London. I still remember the goosebumps that gave me.

Thanks to these kinds of projects, there’s been an accelerating interest in embracing what 5G offers the performing arts community, already leading to many examples across the world where musicians have played together in different countries and cities, such as in China, Sweden and between three UK Locations to help disadvantaged children. I can’t wait to see what everyday folks come together to create, because that’s where real culture comes from, accessible collaboration.

The opportunities are not only limited to the performing arts, but every part of our culture, from galleries to museums. That’s why we’ve been working with the National Gallery in London to look at how we can interwork the physical and virtual worlds of art to inspire more engagement, but also access  – something very relevant during lockdown.

To talk about all these items on the recent Ericsson UnBoxed Office social series, “5G: Connecting Culture”, was really exciting. To me, it really showed how Ericsson nurtures ideas at every level.  I was joined by Ali Hossaini (who, as I mentioned before, has quite a resume) and Chris Michaels, Director of Digital, Comms and Tech at the National Gallery, one of the most prestigious art museums, located in London.

It’s not often you get poets and creatives talking about advanced technology, but I think the combination of Ali, Chris and myself was spot on. It provided different but complementary angles to the importance of 5G, how it can introduce much more immersive and personalised experiences but most importantly how it can provide benefits to the performers, artists and visitors. It’s not just digital for the sake of digital, we’re looking at a new level, a new dimension.

When we talk about 5G, we often talk about technical aspects—higher data rate, lower latency, etc. But let’s take it out of the technical and put it into human terms: 5G will take away that lag that throws us out of immersive experiences. It will give us the possibility to build a co-creation platform that is a true two-way experience—taking the spontaneity and ingenuity that is possible in the physical world into the digital world. And it’s these components that are so key when creating.

As Ali said during the session, with 5G, independent artists will have the same kind of access that major cultural institutions do. Breaking down those barriers even more will be revolutionary. What you will see is major cultural explosion in small towns around the world. Now that we’re all locked in, creativity is going to be one of the primary ways of maintaining connection to others. If we had massive 5G roll out already, can you just imagine the music, interactions, videos, collaborations, everything we would be seeing now?

We could now be at the start of a new renaissance where multi-disciplined people will come together to create art. I’m sure in the near future, we will see things that have been inspired through new ecosystems using 5G as an innovation platform, and I cannot wait to be blown away by the ingenuity of the artists empowered by this technology.



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