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Knowledge Co-Creation - Profiles of researchers

To explore ideal relationships between human beings and the next generation media

Takashi Kawai
Professor, Waseda University, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Rapidly boosting circumstances surrounding three dimensional (3D) images

I am specialized in ergonomics and am focusing my research on the next generation media, which is currently not yet prevalent but have a potential in the near future. When I was an undergraduate student, I undertook a research evaluating 3D images from the human perspective for the first time. I felt that this field allowed researchers to be involved with both the latest science technology and human beings, which perfectly matched my own interests. Since then, I had been undertaking research projects targeting various media such as virtual reality (VR) and ubiquitous computer.

The laboratory of Professor Kawai had been analyzing the 3D media characteristics using an ergonomic approach and accumulated various datasets. (Left: Evaluating the impact of 3D on visual function, Right: Measuring the eye motion while viewing a 3D movie at University of Helsinki).

In order for new media to prevail, it is important to have in-depth understanding of the relationship between human beings and media and discern the essential role of media for human beings; what kind of role they play or they should play. However, even though the importance of the ergonomic approach is being recognized, the adaptation of the approach in the development of the new media and content is not yet enough and many issues remain.

In recent years, the circumstances around 3D images have been rapidly evolved. The 3D images have a long history. For example, the principle of using the complementally colored filters to separately present images to right and left eyes was developed over 100 years ago. By adapting this kind of principle, 3D display and 3D theater had been developed. However, they have yet to become ordinary media in our daily lives.

These days, however, 3D movies are continuously produced and distributed mainly by Hollywood, and the number of theaters that are compatible with 3D screening is increasing in Japan. 3D programs are also broadcasted on the broadcasting satellite (BS), and 3D digital cameras are on the market. Furthermore, a major manufacturer is planning to start selling home 3D televisions in 2010.

Professor Kawai is also working on system development and content production using 3D imaging. The picture shows an example of the research result of "UNESCO World Heritage Archiving" project (a collaborative research between Peking University and Toppan Printing Co., Ltd.(Left: Interactive 3D viewer, Right: VR content for the Maijishan Stone Cave Temple)

It is difficult to give a clear answer to the question, "why now?" I believe that the large trend for the full scale distribution was formed in the overlapped timings of the development of display technology, digitization of movie theaters, and advancement of content production technology. Under this circumstance, the percentage of research themes on 3D content is rapidly increasing these days in my laboratory. It is often pointed out that Japan is behind in terms of the 3D movies production technology of Hollywood. Even though it will be difficult to catch up with them in terms of financial scale, I believe that there is plenty of room for us to improve the quality. One of the ways to improve the quality is to adapt the ergonomic knowledge to the effect or control of the sense of depth. In order to achieve this, we are making efforts to return what we researched and accumulated to the production fields as a system.

Capturing the media characteristics from "circumstances"

One of our early research projects was on the editing system of 3D content (Picture). This research was conducted in 2000. We focused on the usability issues of the 3D content during the post-production period such as controlling the image sources by synchronizing the left and right sources and adjusting the depth effects. Based on the research, we developed the software called "StereoEdit", which enabled these manipulations with an easy operation. This software was turned into practical application for the standard television in 2003 and high-definition in 2005.

An example of a practical application of "StereoEdit", the 3D content editing software(Left; Package of the Standard television edition, Right; Main screen of high definition edition)

Currently, we are promoting the development of the evaluation and filming systems for 3D content. The evaluation system is composed of two functions; a display function to allow even inexperienced creators to analyze and intuitively understand the sense of depth of work-in-progress contents for various screening environments, and a function to evaluate the sense of depth analysis results in conjunction with the datasets from previous experiments. The filming system incorporates the evaluation function into the shooting process to control the right and left cameras, depending on the shooting environment. The purpose of these systems is to contribute to the safe and comfortable 3D content production. The impact of 3D images varies depending on the characteristics of human beings and utilization of place and environment. Without taking into account the "circumstances" (i.e. under what circumstance it was filmed, and under what circumstance it will be used), it is difficult to evaluate and produce 3D content.

It is needless to say that replacing all two-dimensional images with 3D images does not unconditionally improve the quality. Also, it is not so simple to say that having more sense of depth makes better 3D expression. So which approach enables us to produce more high quality 3D content? The utilization of ergonomic knowledge will play a great role there. So far, 3D has mainly been used to create an effect of bursting something from the screen to strengthen the surprising impact in action, horror, and Science Fiction (SF) topics. However, from now on, more sensitive and emotional expressions will be used for 3D. It is one of our research themes to explore the relationships between the effect of 3D and emotional reactions.

Ergonomics evaluation and design of game software

© 2008 NBGI
"Prescription of Game" Project and "99 tears"(Left; Measuring brain function while playing the mobile game software, Right; Package of Nintendo DS"99 tears")

I am often asked "why do you undertake research on games?" I believe that the video games are the most advanced media in a household. In the past, games were often negatively discussed in terms of its negative impact on human beings. However, these days, the positive effects and utilization of games, such as training of cognitive function, is more and more recognized. In response to this trend, we had been promoting the research project called "Prescription of Game" from 2005 as a joint effort between industry and academia. One of the main research themes is regarding mobile game software to provide refreshing effect in a short period of time. Wouldn't it be convenient if game software is introduced which is appropriate for your mood, like by a wine sommelier, during your spare time?

The research on the "Prescription of Game" advanced the game software from an ergonomics evaluation to a design. The research results of "Prescription of Game" are utilized in "99 tears". This is Nintendo DS software, which came on the market in June 2008. The "99 tears" is intended to move the users to tears. In order to achieve this, we worked on the quantification of "possibility of sympathy" in the stories and evaluation of its validity and effectiveness for two years. "99 tears" also has an important aspect of presenting a new relationship between human beings and media; how the content, which was intended to have specific psychological effect, could be a supplement in the daily life. The novel versions, which were published in advance to the software, are in good demand, and I heard that there will be a movie version in 2010. Unfortunately, though, the movie will not be 3D.

Make the ergonomics "common sense" in the field of media content

Trial of virtual body sensation trigger system using cross modality stimulation (Left: Early stage experiment system which synchronizes the audio-tactile stimulation in the same position and present it, Right: Applied system which controls touching motion through visual stimulation)

I believe that "99 tears" is a lucid example of product development using ergonomic approach in the field of media content. As is the case with the aforementioned 3D images, I hope it would become a "common sense" to adapt ergonomic knowledge and method in the development of the next-generation media equipment as well as content production. In order to achieve this, we need to develop human resources who are equipped with ergonomic knowledge. 3D Ergonomists (people who are specialized in ergonomics) are surely in need. However, it is not very realistic for 1 person to be in charge of all the processes of 3 D content production. Thus, we will be utilizing the ergonomics in collaboration with various types of professionals.

While experiments are undertaken in the laboratory, the field experiments in the "situation" where users use new media are also emphasized. The picture shows the outdoor demonstration experiments of a helmet-mounted display in collaboration with University of Helsinki. (Left: The participants wore helmet-mounted camera and various sensors in addition to the display. Right: Walking experiment in the shopping mall.)

In 2006, Waseda University established a new department called Department of Intermedia Art and Science in the School of Fundamental Science and Engineering. The Department brings up human resources in the field of media content of next generation. I am teaching one of the core courses called "3D expression" for the second year students. The courses are designed so that all the students in the Department of Intermedia Art and Science will be equipped with the basics of 3D content production and related ergonomic knowledge. If the students are interested in further studying ergonomics in this field, they can go on to graduate school.

It is also important to remember that we need to disseminate the new media literacy and enlighten the general population. We are now in the User-Generated Content (UGC) period; the users of media content nowadays are not merely consumers, but they generate content by themselves using new media. The time has already come when YouTube is supporting the display of 3D content, and general people film, edit, and post the records of their children's athletic event with 3D digital cameras. During the future rapid change, we have a great hope that a new media will be created by users' initiative through adaptation by the users and growth in the number of 3D UGC.

Takashi Kawai / Professor, Waseda University, Faculty of Science and Engineering

In 1998, he obtained the doctoral degree from Graduate School of Human Sciences of Waseda University. In the same year, he became the research associate of School of Human Sciences of Waseda University. In 2000, he became the assistant professor of the Global Information and Telecommunication Institute of the same University, and, in 2002, he became assistant professor (from 2007, associate professor) of the Graduate School of Global Information and Telecommunication Studies of the same University. In 2007, he also took up the associate professor position of the Department of Intermedia Art and Science, School of Fundamental Science and Engineering of Waseda University. In 2008, he became the professor of the Department of Intermedia Art and Science of Waseda University. In the same year, he became the visiting professor, Department of Psychology of University of Helsinki. He is specialized in ergonomics and undertakes researches to evaluate the effect of image information media on human body. Particularly, his research focuses on the evaluation and application of the latest media technology such as 3D, VR, and ubiquitous computer and production of content. He is engaged in the development and dissemination of the human-friendly next-generation Information and Communication Technology (ICT) from human science perspectives. He is the author of "Introduction to the Next-Generation Media Creator I - 3D Image Expression", and "Latest Media and Human Science" etc.

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