Tactile Internet, a Magic of 5G

Shadow, everyone’s life-long company, is one’s most faithful follower. Whatever you do and wherever you go, your shadow copies and follows. It understands and imitates your body languages like nobody else can.

Now, a robot artist called TAC-2020 has been introduced to the real world, realizing people’s dream of a shadow-like follower of their actions. On its debut show, every stroke you draw on a tablet, TAC-2020 faithfully reproduces an identical stroke on the canvas.TAC-2020 is a conceptual Tactile Internet demonstration Huawei showcased on Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2015. It can precisely and synchronously map the tracks human drawer draws on a tablet onto canvas, showing the possibility of producing a perfect duplicate of human’s work remotely and synchronously.

This brand new technology demonstrated by the TAC-2020 is based on the one-millisecond latency capability of 5G, which is a critical network performance index to materialize Tactile Internet. The concept of Tactile Internet was introduced by Gerhard Fettweis, a professor of Dresden Technical University in Germany. Since 2012, Professor Fettweis has been leading his team to explore how to remotely control robots in real time. Professor Mischa Dohler's speech at the Mobile World Congress 2015 successfully drummed up people’s interest in a fiction-like future experience and the future network behind such experience.

The Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN), a mobile industry organization encompassing top global operators, and committed to researching the demands for the next-generation mobile communications network and use cases is also dedicated to defining system performance objectives, function requirements, and evolution modes for the next-generation mobile broadband network. At its Industry Conference & Exhibition 2015, NGMN released its 5G White Paper (the first version), in which the Tactile Internet was described as “the capability for people to wirelessly control both real and virtual objects, thus requiring tactile-based control signal and feedback of images and sounds.

Tactile Internet applies to many scenarios. For example, if your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, you can ask your car-caring service provider to remotely diagnose and fix the problem through Tactile Internet. Facilitated by the Tactile Internet, an experienced surgeon can provide an accurate medical diagnosis and perform surgery on a patient on the other side of the world.

In such scenarios, as remote sensing and control, remote medical treatment, and even self-driving, the biggest challenge is to shorten the response time to millisecond class.

The average auditory response time of human being is 100 milliseconds and visual response time is 10 milliseconds, whereas tactile response time is only several milliseconds. When the latency of sound from the source to our ears reaches 100 milliseconds or the latency of the images from the source to our eyes reaches 10 milliseconds, the latency can be sensed by our brains. The loopback latency of 4G in an ideal environment is 25 milliseconds, which means that even in the best conditions, 4G may still not be able to meet the requirements of ultra-low latency, such as online gaming and self-driving, which require real-time data interaction.

The emergence of the above mentioned applications will greatly change the way people work and live in the future. However, these applications cannot be widely used without the solid support of mobile communication technologies. For example, if a self-driving car is only aware of itself but completely blind to its surrounding traffic, truly smart transportation can never be realized. If remote sensing and control, remote medical treatment, and virtual reality can only work on wired connectivity, these revolutionary technologies will always stay in the laboratory or be limited to indoor scenarios. To the Tactile Internet we are dreaming about into reality, Huawei has invested heavily in end-to-end 5G technologies, covering the air interface, network architecture, and even chipset processing. The robotic artist TAC-2020 is a conceptual Tactile Internet use case developed by Huawei's researchers based on the ultra-low latency technology. As the in-depth research continues, benefits brought by 5G technologies such as ultra-low latency, ultra-fast data rate, and massive connections will pave the way for the emerging applications into our real world lives.