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Bastille’s 5G-powered augmented reality gig hints at the future of live music


British Indie pop band Bastille performed a surprise gig for commuters in some of the UK’s busiest train stations this week. What was surprising about the gig was not only that it was happening, but people in three different cities were able to watch the gig simultaneously thanks to augmented reality (AR). 

The band played the hit Pompei at Birmingham’s New Street Station to commuters, which was simultaneously live-streamed using EE’s 5G technology to people in Liverpool Lime Street station and Edinburgh’s Shore Street. 

Sure, watching the performance live was pretty special – Bastille is riding particularly high at the moment thanks to their cover of Can’t Fight This Feeling which soundtracks this year’s Christmas John Lewis advert – but the AR gig was spectacular too. Fans were able to watch the performance using Nreal’s mixed reality glasses and Samsung’s 5G devices, including the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Galaxy S10 5G. It was presented as a 360-degree experience, complete with AR graphics which featured city walls tumbling down – a nod to the song’s lyrics – as well as yetis and digital trains. 

Pete Jeavons, marketing communications director at BT and EE, said the performance was a chance to demonstrate what is possible with 5G. “With 5G, our customers can enjoy immersive experiences no matter where they are, even during their commute and in the busiest places. We’re saying goodbye to the days of refreshing our screens while waiting to get out of the station into a congested area.” 

5G has been one of the major buzzwords in tech this year. EE was the first to turn on its 5G network in May, with Vodafone following in June and Three later in August. O2 was the most recent to join the 5G ranks, flicking the switch on its network in October. 

EE has been keen to showcases its 5G tech. In May, the network held a 5G gig with Stormzy in London, live-streaming the performance to those who couldn’t get tickets, as well as powering Glastonbury’s mobile network, making the Worthy Farm festival the world’s first 5G-powered festival.  

Stormzy performing at a 5G-powered gig beside Tower Bridge on the River Thames to mark the launch of 5G on EE (PA)

It’s interesting to see how a technology like 5G could make live experiences feel immersive for those who aren’t there in person. This could have a lot of potential, for instance for people with disabilities who may be unable to make it to a live event or for fans who missed out on tickets. It could be particularly powerful when coupled with a technology like AR or virtual reality, which would allow the viewer to feel like they were in the midst of the crowd.  

It demonstrates how there is so much more to 5G than simply a faster mobile network, though that is a major benefit. As the technology develops, there are hopes that 5G will facilitate autonomous driving, remote surgery, cloud gaming and holographic meetings. That’s certainly something to look forward to in 2020. 

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