6G may just make Teleportation a Reality

This picture is explained later on

In the latest issue of ETSI magazine, 'Enjoy! the ETSI MAG', Rahim Tafazolli, Regius Professor, Director of ICS/5GIC, University of Surrey wrote an article titled, 'Teleportation: Science fiction or fact?'. In that he explains:

Teleportation, as a means for near-instant travel, has, for decades, been a vision for many science fiction writers and film makers. In this field, one can look to the now famous episodes and films of Star Trek which coined the well-known phrases “To boldly go…” and “Beam me up, Scotty”, along with many others. But is teleportation only a fictional idea, or can elements of this be realised? 

First of all, what do we actually mean by teleportation? A clear definition will enable us to address the question of what technologies will be required to realise the vision, and whether we have these at hand, or if new ones will be required.

In the science-fiction writers’ world, the concept was of course based on the transportation of physical objects and living beings from one place to another at the speed of light. But another interpretation is possible; if sensors are located in one location and an observer is in another, a form of teleportation can be realised.

So let’s apply some lateral thinking, and develop this idea further, looking at which elements are important. For living beings, the five major senses are essential to forming a view of the surrounding world, namely: touch, smell, hearing, sight, and taste. There is also spatial awareness, involving balance, reach, and physical awareness. Physical teleportation, without the five senses and spatial elements is meaningless if these cannot be accurately represented in any other place. It is also fair to say that some of these elements are what make us “us”, and perhaps not all are equally important. If the spatial element is removed, but key senses remain, the vision is effectively realised to some degree. We need to think differently about teleportation. Instead of the physical body, it is our key senses that need to be transported, so that we can touch, smell, hear, see and, in general, feel any other place, as if we were there in person. Spatial awareness, where this might be required, could conceivably be added with avatars or robotic units – with sensors fitted to them. 

In our current world, digital technologies have mainly been developed to focus on the transmission and reception of audio and visual sensory information, with telephony video services, as with 3G mobile images, 4G video clips, and more recently 5G 3D video and virtual reality. The natural next step in communications is the transmission of a wider range of information, including the representation of other senses, leading to 4D video, where the fourth dimension represents other human senses. 4D media is a realistic way of realising teleportation in the real world. 

Teleportation in the form explained above will enable many new services that range from entertainment and gaming, to telecare and co-operative and remote working, enabling the fusion of virtual and physical worlds for many types of social and professional activities. Taking into account these ideas, teleportation can therefore take many forms. For example, one case could be where sensory information is transmitted from one location to another, where the human recipient may be. Another case could be via a virtual “middle”, where all physical participants in different locations “meet” in a virtual place, as shown in the film Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Let's take a pause for a second and think about the different types of Teleportation. For many people, Teleportation evokes memories of Star Trek as can be seen in the video below.

The other example Prof. Tafazolli mentions is the meeting in a virtual place as shown in Kingsman and can be seen in the video below

One can argue that the clip above is a simple example of Mixed Reality. We looked at the different use cases of Extended Reality (XR) here and saw some similar examples. One other case that I can think of, maybe a bit far fetched for 6G but explains the possible Teleportation realistically is shown in the movie Surrogates. The relevant part can be seen in the clip below:

There are too many moving parts that would need to come together to enable the above but it may be a possibility in the future.

Prof. Tafazolli details the technical requirements in the article for the Kingsman virtual meeting:

The transmission of what we can hear is a well-established technology, and the transmission of 3D and binaural audio requires a data rate of around 1-2 megabits per second (Mbps) per person, with minimal delay for interactive telephony of less than 400 milliseconds (ms).

The transmission of what we can see with full colour, full parallax (FP) and 30 frames per second through 3D video or high-quality virtual reality (VR) will require around 30 Gbps (gigabits per second) for a tile measuring 4 square inches, with this rising to around 4.62 Tbps (terabits per second) for an object the size of a human body, based on current 3D-video and holographic technology. This technology is expected to progress in the next five years to enable rates of around 1 Tbps for the scale image of a whole person.

Touch sensors will require around 20 to 30 Mbps for a tile measuring 2 square inches, with latency of less than 100 ms.

Smell and taste are related to chemical reactions, and the estimated bit rates required are modest, in the order of tens of kilobits per second.

The transmission and reception of all human senses between people will require sufficient bandwidth, accurate synchronisation, and low latency levels of around 10 ms for natural interactions in real time. These measures can also be applied to robotic interactions. 5G was originally designed with low and reliable latency in mind, together with higher data rates than with 4G, and its specifications can achieve end-to-end latency of around 16 ms in a dedicated slice for one flow.

To enable future applications such as those discussed, future systems will need to be designed with consideration given to reliable and high-accuracy synchronisation between different data flows carrying various forms of sensual information between human or machine users.

In addition, high-accuracy (subcentimetre) geo-location will be essential to maintain natural and dynamic interactions between people or robots in both virtual and physical worlds.

In view of all these points, a key objective and differentiator for 6G mobile and wireless systems beyond 2030 will be high-accuracy synchronisation, with location sensing and low latency between multiple flows from multiple sources for end-to-end communications. 

This objective will necessitate future research challenges focused on integrated communication and sensing (ICS). ICS will render communications smarter by capturing ambient contextual information and intelligently integrating it into communication networks to enable the fusion of the virtual and physical worlds.

The above is just a selected extract from thee article that you can read in the ETSI magazine (page 18-19) here.

We will have to wait to see what turns out to be possible by 6G and what doesn't. In the meantime, we can continue to dream about the possibilities.

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