NTT DoCoMo shows tablet-based virtual shared spaces, two-way clear touchscreen

Japan's largest mobile carrier displayed the new technologies at the Wireless Japan show in Tokyo

NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile operator, is developing a new platform that allows two remote tablet users to explore and share a virtual space.

In a demonstration of the platform at the Wireless Japan exhibition in Tokyo, two users in separate rooms first connected in a manner similar to a video chat. Their motions were captured by a video camera and shown to each other projected onto virtual backgrounds, such as a moonscape or city block. The users could then explore the virtual space together, sweeping their tablets around them to use as a window in the virtual world.

Separately, DoCoMo also demonstrated a new touchscreen that is clear, and allows taps and scrolls from either side.

(See video of the new technologies on YouTube.)

The company's tablet demonstration also utilizes voice recognition, scanning the conversation between the two users for certain words and phrases. When one is mentioned, it appears in a balloon on the screens of both users' tablets, and tapping it can open a link or cause an avatar to appear on the screen.

The company is steadily rolling out services that add on to traditional voice and video chat. It is also testing a real-time translator service and a voice-driven concierge service. DoCoMo is the only of Japan's big three operators that doesn't carry Apple devices, but has the strongest network and largest user base.

DoCoMo's experimental touchscreen is clear enough so things behind it can be clearly seen, but also has enough brightness so its contents aren't hard to find. It senses taps and scrolls from both its front and rear sides, or both at the same time, allowing for new kinds of motion input, including pinching the screen from either side.

The operator said both technologies are still under development and neither has a launch date.

Wireless Japan 2012 runs Wednesday through Friday in Tokyo.

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Jay Alabaster

IDG News Service

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