Cloistered in their ultra-modern laboratories a 90-minute drive south of Tokyo, about 900 engineers work on research and development for Japan’s leading mobile phone carrier, NTT DoCoMo.
Among them, researchers in the mobile communications, multimedia and network laboratories dream up applications of the future, not just for fourth-generation mobile telephony (4G), but for 5G as well.
“We are working on the five senses,” DoCoMo multimedia laboratories managing director Toshio Miki says. “Smell and taste will probably be the most difficult.”
DoCoMo’s 3G service, FOMA, the world’s first, launched in October 2001, with a data transmission speed of 384Kbps, makes it possible to talk by video link or to look at an internet site while talking on the phone.
DoCoMo’s next target is to achieve a speed of 100Mbps for 4G by 2010, and the researchers demonstrate some of the functions they hope to introduce in that time.
One of them would turn the mobile phone into a sort of tracking device to help find a friend in a crowded public place with no landmarks — something for which present phones are of limited use. It would do this by re-creating the sense of directional sound with the help of a global positioning system.
The other caller’s voice would appear to come from the left or right, in front or behind, to correspond with the location in relation to the listener.