KDDI shows off sensory enhancements for smartphone users, throws a free-viewpoint virtual concert

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KDDI shows off sensory enhancements for smartphone users, throws a free-viewpoint virtual concert
Japanese carrier KDDI's never been shy about showing off its latest and greatest from its lab, and here at CEATEC 2011 we got to lay our fingers on a couple of its in-development smartphone sensory enhancements, along with a free-viewpoint concert concept that's being researched on. The first demo we saw was actually the same haptic smartphone prototype that was unveiled back in May, but we thought it'd be nice to give it a go with our very own hands -- read on to find out how well it performed.
Surprisingly, the feedback was effective to the point that we could even feel the ridges on the virtual keypad -- KDDI's ambition with this is to allow the partially-sighted to touch-type (presumably alongside some UI visual aid as well), while everyone else can also benefit from preemptive hyperlink selection in the web browser with the help of fine haptic feedback, thus reducing the chances of hitting the wrong links (see the video below). We were also impressed by the pressure sensor on the touch layer that enabled a "soft punch" input and a "hard punch" input in the demo game, so you can imagine the possibilities with even more layers implemented; except the prototype we saw was already bulky enough. Regardless, as far as availability is concerned there's no info just yet, though this technology is currently patent pending.

The next stand we visited showed off a "smartphone with new experience of hearing." Truth be told, we were only expecting a phone with a louder earpiece, but it turned out to be a bit more than that: what KDDI's done here is integrating some sort of bone conduction technology into the phone, though all that's required is skin contact around its earpiece, and consequently the tube effect (on air compression) inside the ear canal would help reproduce the audio. The result? We could hear the caller clearly even while wearing a pair of earphones (which were playing classical music as well) -- the explanation here is that the tube effect still applies to the chamber between the earphone and the ear drum. Alas, there's also no date for commercial availability yet, so you'll just have to take our word for it.

Last but not least, KDDI brought along a rough but inspiring demo of a "free-viewpoint concert" for all kinds of display method -- be it on a phone, tablet or TV. The idea's rather self-explanatory: you have a virtual band in front of you, and during the performance not only can you move the camera around in the virtual room or even on the stage, but you can also freely move each member around should you wish to change the sound stage. If you want to jam with the instrumentals, you can simply flick the singer away, and likewise with the other band members should you wish to have a one-to-one singing lesson. Like the previous two demos, though, this early research project has yet to come up with a release plan, so you'll just have to get yourself a friend from KDDI for endless virtual concert fun.
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