Visually and aurally accurate virtual communication system
NTT is developing technology that faithfully reproduces pictures and sound from distant locations, creating a natural sense of distance and position, as if both people are in the same room.
"Regarding the picture, this system includes technology that uses 3D video. It continually generates pictures from such a viewpoint that, the other person seems to be right in front of you. Regarding the sound, the system uses technology that reproduces the sound wave-front, so you can hear the other person as if you're actually there with them.
The real-time wave-front synthesis technology used in this audio system applies a sound pick-up and replay algorithm to large microphone and speaker arrays, maintaining the physical properties of the sound wave, and reproducing the wave-front of the sound itself in real time.
"This differs from simple stereo or surround sound, in that you can hear it clearly even if you move around. So, you can identify the spatial position of the sound source."
Here, 64 mics are used to pick up the sound, which is replayed using 96 speakers on the back of the screen.
This audio technology was announced by NTT last year. Now, by combining it with 3D video from the user's viewpoint using Kinect, NTT has achieved a visually and aurally accurate virtual communication space.
"For the background, pictures are synthesized in advance, so here, we're using a blue screen. In the future, we'd like to use entirely actual video, but currently, our first priority is displaying people exactly where they should be, and making sure the person's voice sounds as if it's coming from their mouth."
"One future possibility is, you could create a communication space in a living room, so family members in distant places can talk to each other as if they're right there. Or, for business, we'd like to create an environment for smoother communication, by making it seem as if long-distance participants are actually present at a meeting."