Japan's KDDI sets sights on extended reality

03 May 2018

KDDI is branching out into the emerging world of extended reality (XR) - which includes virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality - by forging partnership with US-based Osterhout Design Group (ODG) to jointly plan and develop XR-based smartglasses for the Japanese market.

The Japanese operator is also teaming with various partners to conduct business trials and create XR services as the company moves toward developing new business operations using virtual characters and other XR technologies to create new business models for the coming era of widespread 5G use.

The partnership with ODG, announced last week, will see KDDI help with the development of domestic Japanese products using the R-9 smartglasses developed by ODG. The operator will help optimize the potential of smartglasses for the Japanese domestic market through practical testing.

According to KDDI, the R-9 smartglasses to be used in future verification tests are equipped with the Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipset and compatible with an AR/VR app that enables stand-alone position tracking for users.

The R-9 smartglasses will feature a wide 50° viewing angle, and will be compatible with wide-screen displays using 22:9 and 16:9 aspect ratios. The R-9 smartglasses will also include dual stereo cameras; front camera with 13-megapixel resolution; and simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) compatibility.

KDDI and ODG also plan to work with Qualcomm toward equipping future models with a modem function to bring cellular communications capability to smartglasses in addition to existing Wi-Fi functionality.

KDDI and various partner companies, such as Japan Airlines, plan to begin practical testing of smartglasses in Japan in June.

Collaborating with partners to create virtual characters and XR services

In a separate announcement, KDDI said it is planning to start conducting business trials on the XR technologies with various partner companies beginning this month.

Through business trials with various partner firms and applications of this technology, KDDI aims to create worlds in which people and virtual characters can communicate interactively.

So far KDDI has worked with Crypton Future Media for the development of the Miku☆Sampo AR application. Moving forward, the operator plans to expand the AR presentation developed through Miku☆Sampo to enable users to communicate more naturally with the character.

This will be accomplished through virtual character development capabilities unique to AI, which enable the character to recognize and understand objects and sounds, etc., in the surrounding environment, KDDI said.

In addition, this project will include a real-time image recognition engine provided by Couger. Couger will also cooperate with virtual character AI-related technology.

KDDI’s announcements signal the increased interests from telecoms operators in VR/AR. According to GlobalData, telecoms operators - who have a key role in enabling VR/AR services as providers of broadband and mobile network services - are exploring revenue opportunities in VR/AR that are beyond 5G data and connectivity.

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