CEATEC 2012 Tech Nuggets: Hands-Free Video Conferencing, Auto-Interpretation Apps, Next-Gen 3D

While themes like ultra-high-resolution displays, energy-efficiency, and the cloud dominated the headlines at CEATEC in Japan last week, several other bleeding-edge products were on display. They are likely to be years, if not decades, from hitting the market but are nonetheless fascinating. Here is a quick look at some of the intriguing futuristic technologies that could be found at the show.

NTT Docomo
NTT Docomo, Japan’s largest wireless carrier, had all kinds of next-generation toys in the R&D portion of its booth that look to make life just a bit easier in the future.

Among these offerings were a hands-free virtual videophone using glasses; the Grip UI for cellphones, which allows users to navigate their phone simply by squeezing harder or softer; ibeam, a tablet feature that allows users to scroll or turn pages simply by moving their eyes; an automatic language-interpreter service for phone calls; and a text-translation app that allows users to translate menus or signage simply by holding up a phone to the text.

And no futuristic booth would be complete without a robot: in this case, a small, in-home robot — dubbed Shabette Robot — uses the “docomo cloud” service to serve as an intelligent personal assistant that talks and provides its owner with personal information and recommendations (weather, music recommendations, calendar, etc.).

But NTT Docomo’s space-age technology offerings go well beyond its CEATEC booth. A group of reporters was treated to a tour of the company’s Future Station showroom, where the company displays its latest tablet and handset products and a demo of the automatic language-translation phone service. The highlight of the showroom is a 3D video-conferencing service reminiscent of the futuristic interface featured in Steve Spielberg’s Minority Report.

The system comprises a colossal screen on the wall and a table in front of the user. A multiprojector display system projects the 3D footage on a main screen as well as on the table. Using a pair of 3D glasses and two finger sensors on each hand, the user can interact directly with the person on the other line by manipulating the images on the table with hand gestures. It’s a pretty nifty device even if it’s years or even decades away.

3D might not be the belle of the ball it was at trade shows two years ago, but it was still an omnipresent force at CEATEC, with a variety of applications on display.

Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz institute showcased 3D software capable of showing two different images on a single display at the same time; the viewer needs only to tilt their head right or left to compare the two images. For example, the display could show the inner and outer construction of a combustion engine or a football field with the offense or defense visible.

According to Fraunhofer, this solution can be combined with eye-tracked 3D displays to offer an unlimited number of intermediate views and more-complex transitions by exploiting the user’s eye position. The application could also be applied to 2D content.

Sisvel arrived at CEATEC with demos of its Tile Format technology, which the company promises can deliver high-quality 3D video (left and right 720p feeds) over the same bandwidth as a conventional 2D HD channel. This would allow broadcasters to seamlessly use their HD infrastructure for 3D channels and share 2D/3D video sources over the same HD channel.

Sisvel has already collaborated with several major broadcast partners, including SES and VTV (Vietnamese Public Service Broadcaster). The company is seeking out set-top–box and TV-set manufacturers with the goal of integrating the Tile Format into consumer products.

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