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5G: What’s in it for the kids?

Oskar, nine: ‘1G is like the parents and 5G is like the kids, so kids are faster and smarter’

Towards the end of 2019, Ericsson embarked on the silly and self-prescribed “crazy” task of explaining 5G to young children. Ultimately, the kids, all children of Ericsson employees, had the easiest time understanding that 5G would be faster.

“So 1G is like the parents’ age and 5G is the latest one, so it’s like the kids’ age,” Oskar, aged nine, eventually concluded. “At least I get to know that 5G is fast and 1G is slow, so kids are faster and a little bit smarter than the grown ups.”

While Oksar has no problem articulating the speed of 5G — even if he took it a bit far — he and the other children struggled to get “super excited” about the low latency of 5G and didn’t seem to focus much on the numerous and amazing things that 5G is promised to make possible, from autonomous driving to sustainable cities. As a result, I thought it might help to take a closer look at some of the kid-friendly and kid-focused use cases emerging for 5G, which will support other advanced technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).


Let’s start with the fun stuff. Most kids are familiar with Pokémon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, the mobile games developed by Niantic Labs that use AR to let the player catch Pokémon and fight wizards throughout their own neighborhood. These games, though, are only the beginning.

A few months after Ericsson’s attempt to explain 5G to its child test subjects, Qualcomm announced that it will begin work with Niantic Labs to develop mixed-reality AR glasses, combining Qualcomm’s dedicated mixed reality chipset Snapdragon XR2 mobile platform, which supports 5G connectivity, with Niantic’s Real World Platform to enable world-scale AR games.

Further, LiDAR technology, notable for being present in Apple’s first 5G phone, the iPhone 12, has the potential to bring AR mobile gaming to a whole new level. LiDAR is the use of lasers that bounce off objects that then return to the source of the laser. By measuring the duration of time it takes for the lasers to travel, distance between objects is determined, and therefore, a 3D space can be mapped.

In a previous conversation with RCR Wireless News, the Head of Verizon’s XR Lab T.J. Vitolo explained that AR today is understood by how it functions in apps like Pokémon Go and Snapchat, in which a flat digital graphic, called a sticker, is applied on top of the environment.

“There’s really no depth associated with that,” provided Vitolo. “LiDAR allows you to map the entire environment to provide that sense of depth, as well as what is really key to this: occlusion. If I want to place a digital coffee mug on the table and then I place my had in front of that coffee mug, the LiDAR sensor will allow me to have that coffee mug be hidden behind my hand.”

What does this mean for gaming? Vitolo said it allows developers to “up the ante” when it comes to AR gaming. Basically, instead of that Pikachu just floating on your screen, he could be peeking out from behind a very real tree in your local park.  

Education, inside and outside the classroom

Education is also expected to be transformed by 5G’s low latency and higher bandwidth. Kid’s media company Azoomee recently released an AR app that allows kids to experience history in an entirely new and immersive way.  The smartphone app uses PTC’s Vuforia Area Target environment tracking, which enables you to track and augment areas and spaces, to deliver an AR experience. 

Austrian mobile operator A1 provided its 5G network technology to support the app in the city of Vienna’s town hall, making it possible for the app to magically transforms the historic building into a “wonderland of imagination.” According to the press release, users could see painted historical figures jump on trampolines, play football and perform skateboard tricks, as well as trees popping up and creatures dashing around.

“The way [the] AR app transforms the Rathaus into a digital environment that combines both fun and learning for children is the perfect example of what we hope to achieve with 5G,” commented a city of Vienna spokesperson.

Douglas Lloyd, CEO of Azoomee, said the company is “thrilled” to be able to use “the dynamic capabilities of 5G and Vuforia to translate Vienna’s rich history into interactive augmented reality experiences that fit beautifully with Azoomee’s mission of making learning fun for children.” 

5G is also expected to make classrooms themselves smarter. Applications like Azoomee’s are expected to takeoff inside schools, as well, allowing children and their teachers to use AR and VR to virtually explore other countries or even planets, getting up close and personal with the subject matter.

Further, some classroom tasks, such as taking attendance, can be automated using AI powered by 5G, and simple things like streaming video will be faster. These benefits will allow instructors and teachers to spend less time dealing with managerial tasks and minor IT frustrations and more time interacting directly with their students.

Education was one of the main areas of 5G innovation that Verizon’s CEO Hans Vestberg emphasized during his most recent CES keynote. 5G’s extremely high bandwidth, Vestberg promised, will allowing students and educations to do things like explore a virtually rendered Apollo 11 command module.

Perhaps more importantly, though, Vestberg announced during the address that over the next few years, the carrier plans to install 5G in 100 schools around the United States in an effort to make sure that every student has access to reliable connectivity.

During COVID-19, students were forced to conduct their education from inside their homes, which proved challenging for the more than 9 million schoolchildren who lack sufficient connectivity. But if carriers can get 5G infrastructure into more rural locations over the next few years — which is, admittedly, no easy task — students may experience a significant closure of the digital divide.


Catherine Sbeglia
Catherine is a Technology Editor for RCR Wireless News, Enterprise IoT Insights, and In-Building Technology. Before joining Arden Media, she served as an Associate Editor in Advantage Business Marketing's Manufacturing and Research & Development Groups. She studied English and Film & Media Studies at The University of Rochester. She currently lives in Madison, WI. Having already lived on both coasts, she thought she’d give the middle a try. So far, she likes it very much.

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