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Feature Articles: Network Technology for Digital Society of the Future—Research and Development of Competitive Network Infrastructure Technologies

Carrier Edge Computing Infrastructure Technology for High-presence Virtual Reality Services

Hiroki Iwasawa, Yusuke Urata, Shinya Tamaki,
Kenta Kawakami, Yuuki Nakahara, Kotaro Ono,
Ryota Ishibashi, and Takeshi Kuwahara

Abstract

Technical studies are underway at NTT Network Technology Laboratories on edge computing that uses computing resources in carrier facilities. This article introduces a technical demonstration of a use case providing a virtual reality application via an edge computing infrastructure performed in collaboration with Toppan Printing Co., Ltd.

Keywords: edge computing, virtual reality, Akraino

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1. Introduction

Cloud computing is widely used for executing applications on the cloud and providing a variety of services. Cloud computing benefits the user by making it unnecessary to manage computing resources such as servers. However, various networks may exist between the user and the cloud, and as a result, the distance to cloud servers and the effects of limitations and quality fluctuations in the communications bandwidth of each network can make it difficult to provide low-latency, broadband services in a stable manner.

In response to this problem, attention is being focused on edge computing as a means of providing services by deploying computing resources such as servers at locations near users [1]. Within this field of edge computing, NTT Network Technology Laboratories is conducting technical studies on a system for installing computing resources in carrier facilities (telecommunications buildings etc.) near users. The aim here is to provide new services having low-latency and broadband capabilities that have traditionally been difficult to achieve on the cloud.

This article introduces a technical demonstration performed in collaboration with Toppan Printing Co., Ltd. on a virtual reality (VR) application requiring low-latency communications as a promising use case for edge computing.

2. Edge computing infrastructure technology for high-presence VR services

VR applications can be broadly divided into two types: the viewing of previously generated video (such as 360-degree video), and real-time generation of three-dimensional (3D) video according to user viewpoint movement and operation.

The former type using previously generated video places constraints on the user such as the inability to move about freely in virtual space or to move objects.

In contrast, the latter type using real-time 3D video makes it possible to move about freely in virtual space and to manipulate objects by generating the video according to sensor information such as the position and orientation of a head mounted display (HMD) using a graphics processing unit (GPU) or other type of processor in real time. It is thought that this type of VR, especially that having high-quality characteristics (high definition, high frame rate), has the potential to be applied to digital catalogs. A digital catalog using VR would enable the user to vary the components, colors, and patterns of a product in virtual space at car dealerships, home builder offices, and all types of showrooms. We focus in this article on high-quality VR with an emphasis on digital catalogs.

To prevent VR sickness in VR applications that generate 3D video in real time, the sequence of processes from a user terminal operation to the display of 3D video on the terminal screen must be completed in an extremely short period of time (such as several tens of milliseconds) [2]. It is for this reason that this type of VR application has usually been provided using local terminals without a network connection. However, it is difficult to achieve high-quality VR with stand-alone HMDs or smartphones, and a specialized personal computer mounting a high-performance GPU can be costly in terms of equipment and operation. In the face of such problems, we considered the possibility of using edge computing to provide low-latency, high-quality VR even in a remote manner, thereby eliminating the need for individual users to manage high-performance specialized computers.

In the joint experiment presented here, we ran a VR application from Toppan Printing for display of model homes on NTT’s edge computing test bed, generated video in real time on this edge computing infrastructure based on sensor information from a smartphone terminal, and tested the delivery of that video data on the terminal. The results of this demonstration confirmed that a high-quality VR-supporting digital catalog application from Toppan Printing could be provided via a remote edge computing infrastructure on the network (Fig. 1).


Fig. 1. VR digital catalog application via edge computing infrastructure.

We also tested proprietary technology for achieving high-quality services such as the suppression of delay jitter in traffic control oriented to VR video.

3. Research and development (R&D) of edge computing infrastructures

In addition to work on edge computing applications including VR, R&D is underway at NTT Network Technology Laboratories on edge computing infrastructures to support efficient facility construction and scaling and high operability at low cost. As part of this effort, we are participating in Akraino Edge Stack, an open source software (OSS) project under the Linux Foundation [3, 4].

The Akraino project is aimed at achieving edge computing not only for telecommunications carriers but also for various types of enterprises and industries by combining OSS technologies reflecting industry best practices according to requirements and restrictions of each edge-specific use case. Our aim here is to collaborate with global partners through an open community to promote fast-paced and efficient R&D of edge computing and create a global ecosystem in this field.

4. Future outlook

We will continue our collaborative efforts with Toppan Printing to achieve an edge computing infrastructure that can provide ultralow-latency and high-quality VR services in a flexible manner.

References

[1] Y. C. Hu, M. Patel, D. Sabella, N. Sprecher, and V. Young, “Mobile Edge Computing - A key technology towards 5G,” ETSI White Paper No. 11, 2015.
[2] K. Burke, “John Carmack’s Latency Mitigation Strategies,” Twenty Milliseconds, 2014.
https://www.twentymilliseconds.com/post/latency-mitigation-strategies/
[3] Website of NTT, TOPICS, akraino (in Japanese),
http://www.ntt.co.jp/topics/akraino/index.html
[4] Akraino Edge Stack,
https://www.akraino.org/

Trademark notes

All brand names, product names, and company/organization names that appear in this article are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

Hiroki Iwasawa
Researcher, Innovative Network Technology and Collaboration Group, Cognitive Foundation Network Project, NTT Network Technology Laboratories.
He received a B.E. and M.E. in engineering from Nagoya University in 2013 and 2015. He joined NTT Network Technology Laboratories in 2015, where he has mainly been working on traffic engineering for edge computing networks. His research interests include queue control for real-time VR streaming on edge computing networks. He is a member of the Institute of Electronics, Information and Communication Engineers (IEICE).
Yusuke Urata
Researcher, Innovative Network Technology and Collaboration Group, Cognitive Foundation Network Project, NTT Network Technology Laboratories.
He received a B.S. and M.S. in physical mathematics from Waseda University, Tokyo, in 2011 and 2013. He joined NTT WEST in 2013 and was seconded to NTT Neomeit as a loan employee, where he worked on maintenance of application servers, routers, and switches for NTT’s Next Generation Network (NGN). He moved to NTT Network Technology Laboratories in 2016, where he initially worked on network security architecture with a focus on unauthorized access/confidential information exploitation, and bandwidth compression DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks by combining NTT laboratories’ technology and the latest security technology. He is currently researching network edge architecture.
Shinya Tamaki
Research Engineer, Innovative Network Technology and Collaboration Group, Cognitive Foundation Network Project, NTT Network Technology Laboratories.
He received a B.A. in physics from International Christian University, Tokyo, in 2005 and an M.E. in engineering from the University of Tokyo in 2009. He joined NTT Access Network Service Systems Laboratories in 2009, where he was involved in R&D of next-generation optical access systems. His current research interests are focused on the system architecture of edge computing, including virtualization, orchestration, and provisioning.
Kenta Kawakami
Senior Research Engineer, Innovative Network Technology and Collaboration Group, Cognitive Foundation Network Project, NTT Network Technology Laboratories.
He received a B.S. in information science from Kyushu University, Fukuoka, in 2004 and an M.E. in engineering from Tokyo Institute of Technology in 2006. He joined NTT Service Integration Laboratories in 2006, where he was involved in researching and standardizing NGN architecture, in particular, Internet protocol (IP) television and quality of service architecture. He has been involved with several standards developing organizations including ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute), 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), ITU-T (International Telecommunication Union - Telecommunication Standardization Sector), and Broadband Forum. In ETSI, he was a rapporteur of the standards specification of the DIAMETER protocol. He transferred to NTT EAST R&D Center in 2010 and developed the domain name system for NGN and contributed to starting new IPv6 services. He has been part of the Network Architecture Project of NTT Network Technology Laboratories since 2015 and is currently researching network edge architecture.
Yuuki Nakahara
Research Engineer, Innovative Network Technology and Collaboration Group, Cognitive Foundation Network Project, NTT Network Technology Laboratories.
He received a B.E. and M.E. in engineering from Tokyo Institute of Technology in 2007 and 2009. He joined NTT Service Integration Laboratories in 2009, where he researched NGN architecture and fixed mobile convergence services. In 2014, he transferred to Innovative IP Architecture Center of NTT Communications and researched an Internet of Things (IoT) platform and industrial IoT security technology. He has been with NTT Network Technology Laboratories since 2017, where he is researching the edge computing system architecture and its platform.
Kotaro Ono
Researcher, Innovative Network Technology and Collaboration Group, Cognitive Foundation Network Project, NTT Network Technology Laboratories.
He received a B.E. and M.E. in engineering from Kyoto University in 2012 and 2014. He joined NTT Energy and Environment Systems Laboratories in 2014 and worked on establishing an evaluation method for electromagnetic disturbances affecting digital communications systems. He transferred to NTT Network Technology Laboratories in 2015. His recent work has mainly involved edge computing technologies and coordination of collaborative R&D. His current research interests include carrier-grade edge computing architecture based on OSS. He is a member of IEICE.
Ryota Ishibashi
Senior Research Engineer, Innovative Network Technology and Collaboration Group, Cognitive Foundation Network Project, NTT Network Technology Laboratories.
He received a B.E. and M.E. in engineering from Tokyo Institute of Technology in 2005 and 2007. He joined NTT Service Integration Laboratories in 2007, where he studied the design of operator network architecture and signaling protocols such as Session Initiation Protocol, NGN, IP Multimedia Subsystem, Rich Communication Service, and Evolved Packet Core. He was with DOCOMO Communications Laboratories GmbH in Munich, Germany, as a trainee during 2011–2012, where he studied network value-added services technologies based on the concept of the Service Enabler Network. He moved to NTT DOCOMO in 2013, where he worked on cloud-based application development for enriching Smart Life services. His current research interests include edge computing system architecture for operators as well as open and collaborative R&D methodologies in the era of virtualization, softwarization, and cloudification.
Takeshi Kuwahara
Senior Research Engineer, Supervisor, Group Leader, Innovative Network Technology and Collaboration Group, NTT Network Technology Laboratories.
He received a B.E. and M.E. from Waseda University, Tokyo, in 1995 and 1997. Since joining NTT in 1997, he has been engaged in R&D of asynchronous transfer mode networks, IP virtual private networks, cloud systems, network security, and edge computing technologies. He was in charge of telecom carrier relations regarding network R&D while based in Washington, D.C., USA, and led the establishment of ATII (APAC Telecom Innovation Initiative) while in his current position. He has been a Technical Advisory Council member of LF Edge and a Technical Steering Committee member of the Akraino project.

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