(Reuters) NTT R&D Forum 2016 was an annual showcase for the research and development undertaken at all the various NTT laboratories in Japan. The theme of this year’s event was “Open the Way”. While many different disciplines and fields were covered at the event, all of the research shared a common theme: creating and developing technologies that will be deployable and usable in 2020* and beyond.

While all the research featured at the NTT R&D Forum 2016 was important and integral, one particular research topic stood out from the crowd: Buru-Navi. Buru-Navi is the name given to the prototypes/devices based on the longitudinal research on replicating human motor control and movement in tactile devices undertaken by Dr. Hiroaki Gomi and his team. Buru-Navi works by exploiting the nonlinearity of human haptic perception to induce a force sensation. When a small mass in the Buru-Navi device oscillates along a single axis with asymmetric acceleration, the user holding the Buru-Navi device should experiences a kinesthetic illusion characterized by the sensation of being continuously pulled (or pushed) by the device. In reality, no actual “pulling” or “pushing” is occurring; rather, an illusory sensation of being pulled in one direction is created. The “lead me” or guidance devices and their iterations therein give insight into the fields of sensory perception while, at the same time, demonstrating practical and fun uses based for the the research. The concept behind Buru-Navi is to create a sensation of being pulled even when there is no actual physical pulling. Asymmetric oscillation creates a sensation of human force perception. Various prototypes including a tactile guidance system, a fishing simulation game, and an immersive virtual reality game with dinosaurs illustrates the potential, practical and possible use cases for Buru-Navi. Besides being fun to use and easy to understand (as one can feel what is happening), the various Buru-Navi devices and prototypes show the applicability of mobile haptic devices in modern society. The technology, research and hardware behind the Buru-Navi system can be deployed in personal (human) navigation, gaming and gamification, as well as for assisting visually impaired individuals with their movement.

Sensory representation was also of interest at the NTT R&D Forum 2016. With their Hengentou (Deformation Lamps, in English) project, Dr. Shin’ya Nishida and his team demonstrate how commercially available equipment can be used to create a sense of movement on a static picture or object with relative ease. According to Dr. Nishida and his research team, Hengentou is a new light projection technique that is able to add a variety of realistic movement impressions to a static projection target. By fully utilizing the processing characteristics of the human visual system, a simple algorithm produces novel visual experiences wherein printed pictures appear to move, deform, and flutter. Simply put, still images and objects are brought to life. The Hengentou technique can be used with both 2D and 3D objects and applied in a variety of fields including, but not limited to advertisements, interior design, and art and entertainment.

The two-day event held on February 18th and 19th, 2016, was made up of various exhibits and demos. Visitors were able to experience and interact with new immersive technologies. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies were on show. Security, cloud-computing and research on future networks was also featured.

Thousands of visitors came to see the exhibits over the course of two days. Not only was the NTT R&D Forum 2016 a chance to show ground-breaking research to the public, but the event also allowed NTT researchers spread out at different NTT laboratories around Japan to see and share their research with one another.

From cute robots, to autonomous driving technology, to immersive experiences with tactile devices and virtual reality and even more, the goal of NTT R&D Forum 2016 was to “Open the Way” for research and technological innovation up to the year 2020 and well after that.

*The 2020 summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo. As such the government, private industry, academia and society in general are putting a significant amount of support and resources behind projects leading up to that time that can promote Japan to the world.