How can 5G change our world? As the fifth generation of mobile communications networks steadily rolls out in Japan and around the world, it’s a question on the minds of experts and consumers alike.
Aside from boosting the speed of business and accelerating the development of AI — two topics Rakuten has spent plenty of time and brainpower considering since launching the world’s first fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network last year — 5G promises to transform society in a variety of unexpected ways, experts shared during a panel at Rakuten Optimism 2021 in October.
Closing the gap
Two leading voices from very different fields — medicine and entertainment — shared their views on the futuristic possibilities of 5G earlier this month at Rakuten’s largest-ever virtual business conference. Toshihiko Doi is Deputy Director (Research) and Chief of Department of Experimental Therapeutics at the National Cancer Center Hospital East. EXILE TETSUYA is a dancer, educator and a member of the popular dance and vocal performance group EXILE, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. They were joined by moderator Hiroto Furuhashi, Executive Officer at Rakuten Mobile, for a spirited and wide-ranging conversation at the event.
The panel commenced with an overview of the three main features of 5G: Upload and download speeds that are about 3.6 and 7.2 times faster than 4G, respectively; very low latency of under 10 milliseconds; and the ability to host many more users on the same connection.
Furuhashi pointed to several Rakuten technology demonstrations showcasing the strengths of 5G. For example, sports stadiums that use 5G to monitor attendee congestion, 5G networks that help guide automated delivery robots, and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles players and fans, despite being physically separated by COVID-19 infection-control protocols, exchanging virtual high-fives by touching tactile screens that vibrate.
“One day, I’d like to do a performance in which all the members of EXILE are located in different venues across Japan, but with one snap of my fingers, they all appear together on the same stage and dance in sync.”EXILE TETSUYA (EXILE/EXILE THE SECOND), Artist
EXILE TETSUYA noted that performances were moved online during the pandemic and shared that he would welcome a chance to use 5G tactile technology as a means of reconnecting with fans, adding that 5G speeds would enhance the experience of live shows. “When we perform online, the lower the latency, the better the communication,” said the entertainer, who was appointed a “health creator” by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
A revolutionary force for health
The notion of 5G bridging the gap between people is becoming increasingly important in medicine. But the technology could also be harnessed as a preventive tool, Doi points out.
“Wearable devices will be very helpful in collecting data so that we can support health,” said Doi, an expert in cancer and experimental therapies. “Doctors’ jobs will be not to begin treatment when a diagnosis is made, but before anything is found.”
5G telemedicine can bridge the gap between large communities with advanced medical care and rural areas with more basic resources. One example would be remote surgery, in which doctors remotely control surgical robots mounted on trucks and other mobile platforms that can reach people anywhere. People who are separated from loved ones in hospitals due to COVID-19 protocols can also feel closer to them by communicating over 5G networks — including virtual reality experiences, Doi added.
“I think this will motivate patients to get better sooner,” he noted. “The next step would be devices that give you everything the five senses provide, like touch and smell. If we can come up with devices that tell us the pain that patients feel, that will grant us better capabilities to empathize with them.”
“[Empowered by 5G-enabled wearable devices,] Doctors’ jobs will be not to begin treatment when a diagnosis is made, but before anything is found.”Toshihiko Doi, Deputy Director (Research) and Chief of Department of Experimental Therapeutics at the National Cancer Center Hospital East
“In a way, thanks to COVID-19, remote diagnostics technology has advanced. For example, you can have CCDs (connected consumer devices) on your eyewear so what family members are seeing is projected on your glasses. These devices are already available — there are also simulations in which husbands can feel what it’s like for their wives to give birth.”
Remote dancers, holograms and the power of entertainment
The panelists also discussed the link between 5G, entertainment and education. Describing the challenges of performing to half-empty venues under COVID-19 rules that prohibit shouting, EXILE TETSUYA speculated about the future of live shows, and how technology could enhance stagecraft.
“One day, I’d like to do a performance in which all the members of EXILE are located in different venues across Japan, but with one snap of my fingers, they all appear together on the same stage and dance in sync,” said EXILE TETSUYA, who has also used remote lectures to teach students at EXILE-affiliated dance schools in various regions of Japan.
5G links might enable the development of 3D holograms that could be used for entertainment and dance lessons, said EXILE TETSUYA. The experience could be made super-realistic through the use of 8K resolution and Wi-Fi 6, the next, faster generation of Wi-Fi, noted Furuhashi.
“Our mission is to make Japan happier,” said EXILE TETSUYA. “We believe in the power entertainment and dance have to make people happy. We may face more difficult times after the pandemic subsides, but that’s our mission.”
To watch the full session from Rakuten Optimism 2021, click here.