Las Vegas, NV, April 22, 2009…Every NAB has its buzz: that new little company with the wonderful gadget or the behind-closed-doors demo from a bigger company. NAB 2009 is no exception. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this “buzz” booth is that it’s located in the North Hall, known for its very staid hardware offerings.

NICT is the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology in Japan. NICT does R&D on information and communications technology focused in three areas: new generation network technologies, key technologies for universal communications and ICT for safety and security. Many of the companies appeared to be part of the Ultra-Realistic Communications Forum, which promotes 3D, very high-res, multi-sensory communications for entertainment, education, remote medicine and other uses.

I enjoyed the Multi-Sensory Interaction System. The user, with glasses and a haptic device, can explore, in great detail, the surface of a virtual object, with very realistic touch feedback. I felt the very small ridges of what looked like an ancient plate as well as the more subtle surfaces of what looked like a piece of marble. Very entertaining.

I really enjoyed a high resolution 3D display that enabled the viewer to see different angles of the object by simply physically moving to the right or left of the screene. The sp0kesperson said that, at the moment, they can only show 5 seconds of material with this system, but given Moore’s Law, I’m sure a 30-minute TV show isn’t too far off.

Another booth showed a 4K display that knocked your socks off. But it required material shot with a 4K camera, and played off a 4K recorder to a 4K-capable screen…nothing we’ll be seeing at Best Buy in the near future. But one can dream…(In fact, the NICT motto is “no longer just a dream,” although that seems a tad optimistic in view of the fact that these products are all years from commercialization).

Interactive panoramic video technologies allowed the viewer/user to use a simple remote to dynamically view different angles of the material on the screen. I watched a Japanese jazz concert. Panning up and down wasn’t too interesting, as the camera didn’t shoot much material above or below the jazz band. But I could easily pan across the band, pick out a musician wailing on the drums and then zoom in to see him sweat. This application is aimed at live delivery service for concerts and sports events, viewed on the computer. Of course your future (or current)  large screen TV could be computer-connected, which means you could do this from the comfort of your home. This application is only a few years out, said the spokesperson.

The electronic holography system is capable of reproducing live-action 3D images – in this case, they showed a rotating 3D block.  The system looked appropriately arcane, with a series of lenses and a processing unit. In principle, the idea of creating a hologram from a dynamic real-world 3D image is very intriguing. But apparently you can only see a very faint version of the block by looking at exactly the right heighth and at exactly the right angle into a small opening. I failed to see the hologram cube so, this wasn’t nearly as impressive.

There was also a cool audio system that showed a music concert by which different instruments were played out by different speakers. So, as you wander among them, you hear the flute or the guitar with greater richness and detail. I’m not sure what Mozart or Moby would have to say about this “interpretation” of music, but it was kind of fun.