NTT’s R&D Forum, held recently in Tokyo, was a showcase of all things new — and sometimes exhilarating — in the information and communication technology world. The R&D Forum has served as the annual proving ground for NTT Groups’ innovators and breakthrough technologies for the past several years — the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to NTT Group’s customers, partners and employees.
This year, I was at our Musashino R&D Center, perusing the exhibits spread over three floors, talking to researchers at the numerous booths, comparing notes with other attendees and taking plenty of pictures.
There were over a hundred exhibits at the R&D Forum which were categorized into five broad themes:
- Media and User Interface Technologies
- Network and Security
- Basic Research
NTT i3 showcased two solutions. The first was CLOUDWAN – the SD-WAN and Edge Computing Solution developed at NTT i3.
The second, developed by NTT i3’s Yasuyuki Kataoka, showed AI/IoT solutions that used data collected from hitoe, the biometric sensor fabric developed by NTT R&D, in conjunction with data from a variety of other sources, to generate new insights via analytics and prediction.
There were several exhibits that showcased novel, everyday use cases for AI technologies ranging from driving, smart home and healthcare to assistant technologies for communication, contact centers and smart maintenance. User interfaces consisted of voice activated interfaces utilizing speech recognition, NLP/NLU to haptic interfaces, facial recognition, object tracking and gestural interactions.
Robo-hito consisted of a tripod mounted 360-degree camera that could give you an interactive virtual tour of the forum. In the picture below, the Robo-hito 360-degree camera is mounted on a backpack. The person on the right, wearing the VR headset, can see what is being seen by the Robo-hito camera and can remotely control it to move via his movements on the VR treadmill. Future use cases can replace the individual on the left with a mobile robot to give you a virtual tour of places.
Another amazing viewing experience was Kirari! which captures 3D information of a live event and then can reconstruct it at a remote site through holographic images and surround sound in such a realistic fashion that the viewers think that they are witnessing the real event. The picture below is a 2-D picture of Kirari! that does not do full justice to the viewing experience.
I spent a lot of time at the IoT and Network & Security sections of the R&D Forum. The underlying concept in several exhibits was to use sensor technology at the IoT edge and then connect back to the network or Cloud to enable a variety of use cases. For example, our CLOUDWAN exhibit showed collision avoidance by smart cars using connected camera information to demonstrate how CLOUDWAN delivers IoT security and edge computing. The future use for this would be for autonomous cars in smart cities to utilize real-time information from a variety of sensors for safe driving. A similar use case was a field weeding robot using computer vision to remove weeds from the field without damaging vegetables.
The Basic Research section showcased futuristic technologies such as quantum neural networks and advances in material science, energy efficiency and nanotechnology.
Every visit to the R&D Forum leaves me excited about new innovations at NTT Group. In a world of rapid technological change, this annual gathering provides an intellectual direction to the company while reminding us that it is still early days and there is a lot more that will change.
That is why we keep showing up at the R&D Forum. We don’t just want to see the future. We want to make sure we are a part of it.