AT&T hosted a live Axel Mansoor concert in AR using only 5G phones

The concert took advantage of 5G’s extra bandwidth and low latency as well as machine learning and edge computing (that is, putting computational power close to where it’s needed). Before, an AR performance might have involved specialized volumetric streaming hardware, motion capture suits or simply pre-recording the show.

AT&T and Ericsson are quick to acknowledge the technology is young. The virtual Axel looks mostly like the real artist and reflects his general activity, but the model animation is stilted enough that you won’t forget you’re looking at a digital avatar. It’s also considerably easier to transmit a solo artist’s performance to a small audience than it would be for a band with thousands of attendees. And yes, there’s little doubt that this is an attempt to justify 5G at a time when the everyday benefits are relatively few and far between.

This does show how musicians might hold special gigs even after the pandemic, though. They wouldn’t need an elaborate studio to make distant fans feel involved. The technology could also be helpful well beyond music — you could have virtual visits with family, friends or coworkers with more presence than yet another video call.