EE 5G to deliver BBC Green Planet augmented reality experience

Increased 5G network capacity will enable AR experience for landmark BBC series using holographic video to explore the world from the perspective of plants

Six of the world’s leading creative, technology and scientific organisations have formed a consortium to create new experiences inspired by the forthcoming BBC Studios Natural History Unit landmark series The Green Planet, presented by Sir David Attenborough.

Billed as a version of legendary BBC natural history series Planet Earth from the perspective of plants, the five-part series is said to be the first immersive portrayal of an unseen, interconnected world, full of new behaviour, emotional stories and surprising heroes in the plant world. During the series, Attenborough travels to the US, Costa Rica, Croatia and northern Europe, from deserts to mountains, from rainforests to the frozen north, to find new stories and a fresh understanding of how plants live their lives.

He meets the largest living things that have ever existed, trees that care for each other, and plants that breed so quickly that they could cover the planet in a matter of months. He also finds time-travellers – seeds that can outlive civilisations, and plants that remain unchanged for decades – and examines people’s relationship with plants, past, present and future, and reveals how all animal life, ourselves included, is totally dependent on plants.

The consortium is being led by immersive and television content production studio Factory 42 along with 5G mobile network operator EE, BBC Studios, the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, natural history producer Talesmith and Dimension Studios. Factory 42 will co-produce the project with BBC Studios in association with Talesmith.

The three organisations will bring creative direction and the powerful story-telling of Sir David Attenborough, EE will deploy its 5G network and edge computing, and Dimension Studios will provide the volumetric capture video technology that will create the holographic images in the app.

The app inspired by the series is designed to encourage audiences to discover what the partners say are new and surprising wonders of the natural world. Scientifically accurate digital botanical imagery, verified by Kew’s world-leading scientists, will enable people to find out more about the flora and fauna that inhabits our planet.

People can use their phones and devices to nurture rare and exotic plants, observe their behaviours and watch in seconds as they grow in urban backdrops while seeing the animals that live among them. The consortium will also work with digital learning specialists to ensure the app not only entertains, but also gives audiences a deeper connection and understanding of plant life in an interactive way.

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EE said the combination of increased capacity and dense coverage of the 5G network, enhanced by the lower latency and faster speeds of edge computing, will mean large groups of people can access rich interactive experiences in a number of set locations. It added that, combined with augmented reality (AR) technology, audiences of all ages will be able to explore the world from the perspective of plants and discover more about the interconnectivity of all life on Earth through high-resolution holographic video.

“This pioneering project will exploit the technological advances that underpin EE’s 5G network to help deepen our appreciation of the natural world,” said Marc Allera, CEO of EE owner BT’s Consumer division. “Understanding our environment has never been more important and by using augmented reality, we will enable users to immerse themselves in nature. I am delighted that we can utilise EE’s 5G capabilities to show how modern technology is a means to informing and inspiring greater responsibility towards our planet.”

Factory 42 founder and CEO John Cassy added: “The importance of protecting the planet has never been greater and the opportunity to use emerging technologies to engage audiences of all ages in environmental issues in new ways is hugely exciting. We are delighted to have pulled together a unique consortium of world-leading organisations and look forward to showing how 5G networks will enhance our everyday lives and our understanding of the world around us.”

The consortium is one of nine projects to win £2.2m funding as part of the 5G Create competition backed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which is exploring how 5G technology can be used by a wide range of sectors, including the creative industries.

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