Real-Time Communication: Is XR Slipping Away or Setting Roots in Real-Time Technology?

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By Matilda Beinat | 2Q 2024 | IN-7312

Extended Reality (XR) platforms have been taking a hit: Microsoft shut down Altspace, Mozilla shut down Hubs, and Glue was declared bankrupt. This slows down the potential adoption of XR for Real-Time Communication (RTC), especially visual RTC. Yet, investing in a combination of technologies, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth®, WebRTC, etc., can solve the challenges XR faces, and allow for visual RTC.

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XR for Real-Time Communication


Meta has removed several features from Horizon Workrooms, a virtual meeting space to have a more streamlined and reliable experience. Microsoft terminated AltspaceVR a few years after purchasing the platform in 2017, around the time Microsoft had a company-wide layoff affecting 10,000 people, which points toward the company focusing on services that produce more revenue. Glue, a virtual collaboration platform, was recently declared bankrupt, and has a 2-week period to secure an operating firm to keep the company’s infrastructure alive. One after another, companies have been scaling back their Extended Reality (XR) platforms for collaboration. So, what does this mean for visual Real-Time Communication (RTC)? Is XR as a mode of communication using near simultaneous exchange of information (both visual and audio) going to be much farther in the distance now? What does that mean for the connectivity types to enable this collection of ideas?

The Role of XR in Evolving Communication Dynamics


As businesses quickly turned to virtual meetings as a mode of communication, it seemed the perfect moment to use XR for RTC, as though the individual you are speaking to is in front of you in real time. Due to its immersive features, using XR for visual RTC enables people to collaborate in real time with people around the world, irrelevant of their geolocation. This understanding led companies with XR ambitions to quickly jump on the possibility of immersive virtual meetings and virtual Headquarters (HQs) where people can meet and discuss business, or simply to spend time together, with as little latency as possible. Key companies in the XR space, such as Meta and Microsoft, were creating virtual spaces for exactly that purpose. Yet, once the realization that perhaps the technology, or the public in general, was not ready for this innovative and immersive technology (e.g., due to low adoption and lack of active users), companies started to retreat and regroup.

While it looks as though low latency and immediate transferal of audio and visual information was not feasible yet, there is a strategy behind it all. Microsoft is currently investing in its new platform, Microsoft Mesh, which is collaborating seamlessly with Teams, enabling people to connect on both Personal Computers (PCs) and Meta Quest devices, depending on what they have available, slowly allowing for visual RTC to take place. During 2023’s Meta Connect event, Mark Zuckerberg mentioned Horizon Worlds briefly, with prospects of its metaverse being kept quiet. This points toward the platform being developed in the background and focusing the metaverse investments on education and training. These quiet turnovers show that the strategy behind immersive collaboration, along with enabling technologies, is quickly forming and will be taking its place in due course, revolutionizing the way in which people will be connecting and communicating worldwide.

Roadmap for Success


For XR to find its place and thrive alongside visual RTC, a multitude of efforts need to be made, but the main ones to focus on below provide an ideal foundation for its path:

  • Connectivity: Major problems with reaching perfect visual RTC have to do with connectivity technologies, usually with latency and bandwidth. As connectivity modes evolve, such as with Wi-Fi 7 with a 6 Gigahertz (GHz) spectrum entering the market this year, some of these problems will begin to subside. For XR to be a top application for visual RTC, it must have low latency and high bandwidth to be considered as a competitor within the market. Investing in semiconductor companies that incorporate Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth® Auracast in their chipsets can boost connectivity at the hardware level and present opportunity for platforms.
  • Invest in XR Platforms for Communication: Even though companies such as Microsoft, Meta, and Mozilla have been closing/slowing down their video conferencing platforms, it is still of great importance to continue investing in a future with XR to supplement visual and audio RTC. As more XR devices hit the market with greater capability, parallel platform investment can facilitate a foundation to build a cohesive RTC product in XR.
  • Continue Investing in WebRTC: Currently, WebRTC as a technology has been seeing rapid growth, with driving forces coming from Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) due to their cost effectiveness and scalability. Its unique selling point lies with it being an open-source web-based technology that does not require a plugin to allow users to send real-time media. By further growing the WebRTC market, technologies that facilitate visual and audio RTC, such as Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth® Low Energy (LE), will soon follow.
  • Understand Unique Challenges XR Devices Pose: While XR is a unique method of communication, allowing for immersive and real-time transferal of information, the adoption rate and understanding of XR and its potential has been limited. By investing time and money in a combination of technologies and education about XR (e.g., Bluetooth® LE, Bluetooth® Auracast, Wi-Fi 7, etc.), focusing on how XR can be used in different spaces, the challenges that XR faces can be addressed and solved.
  • Allow Access from Different Hardware: To begin with, people will not have Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) headsets readily available to them (one of the unique challenges XR faces), and asking the public to purchase more products to facilitate a new mode of communication prior to them experiencing it is not realistic. Therefore, similar to how Microsoft Mesh can be interacted with across device types, providing access to XR content through universal browser access or specific mobile/computer applications will also spur XR adoption. Offering people the chance to experience the potential of XR within communication technologies can provide them with insight on just how impactful and immersive XR can be, revolutionizing the way they will communicate with people around the world.


Companies Mentioned