Teleconferencing has become an integral part of doing business around the world but in Japan, one tech company is making the experience more intimate than ever before. NTT Communication Science Laboratories is bringing body language to long distance meetings and improving communications in the process. Rob Muir reports.
=RESENDING WITH CORRECTION TO COMPANY NAME IN INTRO, IE "COMMUNICATION SCIENCE LABORATORIES", RATHER THAN "COMPUTER SCIENCE LABORATORIES= For many companies, video or telephone conferencing has become an essential part of doing business..but NTT Communication Science Laboratories believes the concept is, quite literally, in need of a face-lift. NTT is developing new technology to bring better facial expression and body language to the conferencing experience. A series of screens attached to sensors and small motors move in concert with the movements of participants. Developer Kazuhiro Otsuka says it introduces a more realistic perspective to the conversation. (SOUNDBITE) KAZUHIRO OTSUKA, NTT COMMUNICATION SCIENCE LABORATORIES SENIOR RESEARCH SCIENTIST SAYING: "In other words, if you look right the screen will also turn right. If you nod, the screen will nod as well. So people's head movement is taken and emphasized. " Otsuka says the system answers questions that may be be obvious in face-to-face meetings but cannot be answered by computers, questions like "Who is talking to whom ?" and "Who is influencing whom?" (SOUNDBITE) KAZUHIRO OTSUKA, NTT COMMUNICATION SCIENCE LABORATORIES SENIOR RESEARCH SCIENTIST SAYING: "Apart from words, there is non-verbal communication such as eye-line and expression and humans use all of that in communicating. In previous systems, that wasn't possible to convey, so what we've done is convert that into actual movements of the screen and take that lost information and put it back into the conversation." For now the system works only between two points but Tosuka says it won't be long before participants in multiple locations can bring their all to the conversation.