The NTT R&D Forum presents research findings from NTT Laboratories. The first online version of the event, NTT R&D Forum 2020 Connect, was held over a four-day period from Tuesday November 17 to Friday November 20, on the concept of "Into the IOWN - Change the Future."
In addition to the exhibition on each of the eight research themes, the forum also delivered two keynote lectures, a special talk, two special sessions and four technical seminars.
In this article, we will provide a summary of the lectures delivered and report on the research exhibitions that attracted particular attention.
In Special Session 1, Shingo Kinoshita, Executive Research Engineer at NTT Corporation Service Evolution Laboratories, welcomed guests Yuki Ota, President of the Japan Fencing Federation & Vice-President of the International Fencing Federation and Haruyuki Moroishi, CEO/CCO of IMAGICA EEX Inc. and General Producer of the IMAGICA Group to discuss the theme "Sports & Live Entertainment Viewing Re-Imagined in the Post-corona Era," including current conditions and the situation moving forward for sports and live entertainment in the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Special Session 2, Yuji Maeda, Vice President of NTT Space Environment and Energy Laboratories welcomed guests Yuya Takashima, Novelist and SF Consultant (Mobile Suit Gundam: THE ORIGIN) and Kawori Manabe, TV Commentator to discuss the theme "Challenges of NTT Space Environment and Energy Laboratories in the Coming Space Millennium." The session introduced various challenges that NTT Space Environment and Energy Laboratories are involved in, including optimal operational technology for fusion reactors etc., relating them with the science-fiction setting of the Gundam franchise.
This year's Special Talk was MC'd by the announcer Mari Watanabe, who welcomed both Takuma Sato, the professional racing driver, and Jun Sawada, President and CEO of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, to discuss the topic "Sports & Entertainment with ICT."
Takuma Sato (hereinafter "Mr. Sato") moved on from cycling competitions in his school days, entering the Suzuka Circuit Racing School at the age of 20 and graduating at the top of his class. After that, he went to the UK, where he became the first Japanese person to win the British F3 championship in 2001. He also went on to win the Masters of Formula 3 and the Macau Grand Prix to reach the height of global success in F3 racing. In 2002 he became the seventh ever professional Japanese F1 driver to participate in the F1 World Championship full-time, and he took the podium at the US Grand Prix in 2004.
Since 2010, he has participated in the North American IndyCar Series and in 2017 he became the first Asian to win the traditional Indy 500, said to be one of the top three races in the world - along with the 24 Hours of Le Mans Race and the Monaco Grand Prix. In August of this year, he won the Indy 500 for the second time, becoming the twentieth person ever to win it more than once. To date he has had a total of six wins in the IndyCar Series and next season he will also be competing as part of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team.
Meanwhile, the NTT Group have been lead sponsors of the IndyCar Series since 2019, which has resulted in the name of the top North American series being changed to the "NTT IndyCar Series." As the official technology partner of IndyCar, NTT has also been helping to expand the functions of the IndyCar Series mobile app and improve fan experience through digital innovation. President Sawada himself is also extremely knowledgeable about the IndyCar Series, having visited the US last year to watch the races. Since 2020, Mr. Sato has been working as NTT's IndyCar Technology Ambassador, which is how this special talk came to be.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this season was postponed to August from its usual start in May and was held in unusual circumstances, including with no spectators in attendance. Despite this, Mr. Sato managed to win thanks to the ethos of his motto "No Attack, No Chance." These mental and physical strengths were also discussed in detail during the talk, but what attracted particular attention were the case studies of NTT's technological initiatives in the IndyCar Series that were presented in the second half.
During the talk, President Sawada himself referred to the IndyCar Series as a "mass of ICT technology" which was already capable of sensing and recording the driver's status and vehicle condition, etc., before the term IoT became widely known. The official IndyCar Series app provided by the NTT Group aims to deliver information to the fans that they could not see previously. You can support your favorite driver in real time, watch images from the in-car camera showing the driver's perspective and check real-time race rankings linked to information from on-site locations.
In addition to the official app, the seminar introduced technologies such as the 30-meter high "Media Wall" where uninterrupted images of the race are projected, and "Venue Security" which analyzes camera images to detect visitor and vehicle conditions with accompanying videos.
Regarding the official app, Mr. Sato said "I used to wait in the cockpit during qualifying time trials. But while I could see other drivers' results, I didn't know what conditions they had achieved their times under. Recently I have been using NTT's official app while I wait for my turn and I can see information such as how much other drivers stepped on the accelerator and how they drove. Suddenly, with no chance to practice, it's your turn and your actions may need to change considerably depending on conditions such as wind direction, so I use information from the app to give myself an image of current track conditions, allowing me to give it everything I have." This seemed to be a big surprise to both President Sawada and Ms. Watanabe.
Finally when I asked Mr. Sato about his aspirations for next season, he replied "I am really happy to have the support of a top global company like NTT as a lead sponsor and technical partner, a company that has grown from Japan to have a world-wide presence. The IndyCar Series is a major sport in the United States and I would like to push further forward to reach the top."
In response, President Sawada said "I hear that twenty people have won the Indy 500 twice, ten people three times, and one person four times. I really hope Mr. Sato aims to win it five times." On that hope the Special Talk ended.
The purpose of the technical seminars is not only to present the cutting-edge research findings that NTT is working on, but also to allow visitors to the forum to gain something of an insight into NTT's current ideas; the future we envisage, as well as the ongoing efforts we are making for the future. This year, seminars were delivered on four themes: "Into the IOWN - Beyond Human"; "Beyond Digital Twin - Digital Twin Computing"; "Safe & Secure Social Infrastructure for Smart World"; and "Contributing to a Healthy and Hopeful 'Medical and Healthcare Future'— ICT and Well-being, Human Co-being —." Here we present a summary of each seminar.
"Beyond Human" is one of the concepts in IOWN. Its aim is to bring AI capabilities closer to those of humans and even further beyond. Taking sight as an example, the human eye is said to be able to recognize images up to 240 fps or thereabouts; meanwhile Sony has already developed a CMOS image sensor that exceeds 1,000 fps. This seminar introduced "next-generation data hub" technology which extracts and delivers only the necessary parts from information captured by sensors, in order to keep processing times within 0.1, the speed of human response.
From "Remote World," which is another of the concepts in IOWN, there was an introduction to the "Spectator Assistance System" created through joint research between NTT and Sony. There was an explanation of the concept and supporting technology used to create a space that promotes enthusiasm among remote audience beyond the barrier of distance, using IOWN's ultra-low-latency network.
And in "Into the IOWN," the seminar introduced technologies that will enable IOWN to be realized; namely, "Disaggregated Optical Computing" which provides high rates of efficiency and low levels of power consumption, and "Extreme NaaS (Network as a Service)" which allows comfortable network connections with sustained access.
Digital twin refers to mapping things and people to the digital world. While this is currently being developed under separate categories for individual industrial domains, the seminar explained the concept of digital twin computing - a computer paradigm that creates new value by synthesizing digital twins of things such as objects and humans to build diverse virtual communities. There was also a presentation of a related technology that aggregates highly accurate information on the position of vehicles in real time to help alleviate congestion.
The seminar further introduced five aspects of research and development initiatives that aim to allow development of human digital twins, namely, "outer and inner surface modeling technology", "technology to understand", "technology to think", "technology to express", and "technology to reproduce a group of people." It was also reported that, moving forward, a more multifaceted approach would be required, including aspects such as neuroscience, psychology and behavioral economics.
The second half of the seminar also announced NTT's four grand challenges; namely "Mind-to-Mind Communications", "Another Me", "An Exploring Engine for the Future Society", and "Inducing Inclusive Equilibrium Solutions for the Earth and its Social and Economic Systems." It was also mentioned that NTT will continue with wide-ranging cutting-edge research.
It is predicted that we will see the dawn of a Smart World in which both cyberspace and physical space are fused together, with data on not only things but also people being analyzed in cyberspace and then fed back to physical space. Meanwhile, as various elements are connected to the network, so the targets for cyber attacks will increase, with the risk that these will cause serious harm. Consequently, we need new security technology that will "forestall" an attack, rather than existing models that "follow up."
The seminar first presented technology that identifies the signs and causes of infection by capturing the breakdown and situation of people and things in cyberspace, and uses spatial and temporal analysis to identify the spread of infection across domains. The seminar also looked at the example of smart agriculture, introducing certificate-based IoT authentication technology (IoT: Internet of Things) that protects data from outflows of valuable know-how on cultivation, and impairments to cultivation caused by factors such as the delivery of improper control data.
The idea of a "dedicated core network" was also introduced; a network that allows for ultra-low-latency communication, even given the increase in connected devices and traffic that is expected with the introduction of 5G services.
Just before the seminar, NTT released "Medical and Health Vision: Realization of a Bio Digital Twin - working on the "future of medicine" to predict diseases, and mental and physical conditions, enabling people to have health and hope for the future." This seminar explained the contents of this publication.
The seminar proceeded with a look at the three research perspectives; namely, (1) Obtaining data; (2) Behavior feedback; and (3) Predicting the future. (1) Obtaining Data: this introduced technology that beams radio waves from a wearable sensor device to visualize trends in blood glucose. (2) Behavior feedback: this looked at technology that captures biological myoelectric signals, analyzes them and provides feedback. (3) Predicting the future: this showed research which demonstrated that creating your own future image in the digital world makes you review your current behavior and helps you to have a better future.
This was a technical seminar that fully expressed NTT's research position of not only curing illnesses, but also thinking about people's happiness beyond that.
At this year's forum, we presented the latest technologies and research findings in virtual exhibition booths. Below, we report on the concepts behind each exhibition theme and pick up on the research that attracted particular attention.
We presented the key technologies in the technology development roadmap created to progress the IOWN initiative, along with user experiences that allow you to realize the initiative's value.
“Technology for the configuration of an extremely expandable and flexible All-Photonics Network (IO1)”: here we presented the latest technology that creates new customer experiences such as remote production and infrastructure sharing through the provision of large-capacity optical pathways able to accommodate diverse protocol stacks. We showed the possibilities for a new world created by optical interfaces and large-capacity optical pathways. In addition, in “Disaggregated Optical Computing (IO5)”, we presented the latest technology that produces improvements in power efficiency through the efficient use of computer resources, such as the creation of close connections between computer resources like CPU, GPU and FPGA, using technologies such as photonics-electronics convergence.
Here we introduced innovative network technology and advanced control/operational technology that uses optical/wireless channels to create a smart social infrastructure.
"OAM-MIMO wireless multiplexing transmission technology (N04)" introduced our large-capacity, terabit-class wireless transmission technology, created to accommodate increases in wireless traffic for 5G and beyond. We aim to have this technology in practical use around 2030, when it is envisioned to replace or supplement optical channels. In addition, "Network and information processing technology to allow autonomous driving for Level 3 agricultural machinery (N06)" showed how the safe and efficient unmanned autonomous driving of robotic farm machinery using remote monitoring/control is integrated with each of the IOWN elemental technologies such as wireless quality prediction, overlay network, video transfer, image analysis and network coordination device control. Moving forward, we will continue to expand the use of this technology for autonomous driving in other areas such as passenger vehicles and UAVs.
Here we presented the AI-related technology "corevo®" that creates new value by supporting human and social activities to enrich people's lives.
In "Digital twin computing technology (A01)" we presented our global vision to expand the real world by fusing it with a highly interactive virtual society created through the realization of the IOWN initiative's "digital twin computing" and "human digital twin" aspects. In addition "Media processing device technology in the remote world era (A15)" introduced technology that produces a personalized sound zone that only delivers the sounds users want to make known/heard by strictly controlling the sound space around them. "Asynchronous distributed deep learning for edge computing (A20)" presented techniques and demos for securely optimizing machine learning models under the edge computing environment (in which data will be dispersed) expected in the near future, as opposed to the current situation whereby deep learning generally trains models from data aggregated in one place.
Here we introduced applied security technologies to defend the Smart World from increasingly complex cyber attacks and support secure distribution and use of data, as well as cryptographic technology for the future.
In "NTT post-quantum cryptography (S05)", we described NTT's next-generation cryptography, which even quantum computers cannot break, a basic public key encryption technology, which remains a candidate for selection in the final round of the international standardization contest. Moving forward, we will continue to research further improvements in security and efficiency in a bid to ensure our technology is adopted as an international standard.
In this theme, we presented technology that is able to process a vast amount of complex data at high speed and allow multiple players to freely utilize data across industry and regional barriers.
"Data utilization and analysis technology for digital transformation (DX) (D02)" describes how DX for business can be created using data utilization and analysis methods that improve productivity and user-friendliness for staff working in help-desk services in government and financial institutions etc. During the COVID-19 pandemic, points of contact with customers are increasingly being digitalized. "Overview of 4D digital platform (D06)" introduced an overview of our 4D digital platform that integrates diverse sensing data with precision and in real time on an advanced geospatial information database that has an abundance of highly accurate semantic information. Moving forward, we aim to provide it to various industrial sectors to help solve social issues and create new value.
This theme introduced virtual reality and augmented reality technologies that create new "life environments" and human-machine interface technologies that seamlessly connect all sorts of things, in a bid to create a society where people can make the most of their capabilities by using data from the cyber world.
In "Cybernetics technology to augment human capabilities (M01)" we aim to let people discover the person they want to be by supporting and augmenting their motor skills based on acquisition/analysis and feedback on biological signals governing human motion. In addition the Spectator Assistance System, which aims to improve enthusiasm for remote spectating (M02) aims to produce a space that allows spectators and audiences who are remotely watching and listening to sports and concerts to share their excitement across the distance by improving the sense of enthusiasm, togetherness and dialog between them.
This theme introduced environmental and energy technologies to innovate the future of the global environment in order to regenerate the planet's environment and create a sustainable and inclusive society.
In "Optimal operation technology for fusion reactors (E02)" we are contributing to the stable operation of nuclear fusion in order to help the ITER project by utilizing IOWN technology (APN: All-Photonics Network and DTC: Digital Twin Computing) to transmit various sensor data from the fusion reactor to the control center at ultra-high speed and ultra-low latency, and creating a network that feeds back to the actuator. Moving forward, we intend to carry out sophisticated simulations that will reproduce fusion reactors in cyberspace using DTC. In addition, looking ahead to a time when we may experience frequent lightning due to extreme weather, our "Lightning control and charging technology (E03)" aims to control lightning not only to protect people and equipment from lightning strikes, but also to enable energy from lightning to be used.
This theme introduced basic research that can have a revolutionary impact on society, such as research and development concerning innovative information processing technology, advanced device technology, material science technology, and medical/biotechnology.
In "Remote stethoscope: enabling remote auscultation and illustration of biological sounds using a wearable acoustic sensor array (B01)" a large number of acoustic sensors are incorporated into an examination vest allowing multi-faceted and high fidelity sounds associated with biological activity to be sent to the receiving device. This technology also supports on-line diagnosis and self-help health care by converting information (into a visible format) by, for example, creating a video showing heart movements from the sounds, or creating written text based on the findings. In addition our "Overheating prevention system that uses wearable biological and environmental sensors (B02)" allows workers using wearable biological and environmental sensors to be monitored remotely, the risk of heat-related health hazards for each individual to be estimated, and alerts to be issued.