JAPAN: research labs look way beyond 3D flatscreens for sound as well as vision

You may have been as amazed as we were to read about the plans for TV coverage should Japan win the 2022 FIFA World Cup; among the proposals was the suggestion that games could be transmitted to football stadiums around the world to be viewed as if they were happening live, and in three dimensions, before spectators eyes.

The idea, which we covered here, is that multiple cameras – 200 8K high-def cameras, in fact – will cover the action at each game, and that the images from them will then be projected on flatbed screens at each stadium, or even onto the pitches.

Yes, we thought 'fabulous, but it can't be real', too – but it seems that the technology to make it happen is taking shape right now, as part of moves to give Japanese TV manufacturers a technological lead over their ever-stronger rivals.

True, 'walk-around' 3D
Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology has been working on ways of making what are apparently truly three-dimensional objects appear before viewers: you know, the kind you can walk all the way round, not just a bit of extra depth in a flatscreen or things appearing to leap out of the TV at you.

The first experiments used multiple projector beams and a complex array of mirrors to conjure up table-top holographic images such as the cute bunny we see here: everything else in the picture is real, but the rabbit is an illusion.

And a demonstration earlier this month used 100 projectors to create what's being claimed as the world's first truly stereoscopic video, developed in association with leading consumer electronics companies.

So what was this first moving image? A boy kicking a football, appearing to be in the room with the viewers. You can see where they're going with this one…

3D sound, too: 62 channels of it
To add to the sense of realism, NICT has also been working on enhanced surround sound – 62-channel surround sound!

NICT says that what it's calling its 'new 3D sound system' creates the illusion 'by subdividing the equator of a sphere into 20 parts and dividing both the upper and lower hemispheres in half so that sound can be emitted in 62 directions.

'This improves the precision with which the sound source orientation can be represented, making it easier for the listener to perceive, for example, the direction in which a singer is facing or the movement of a violin player during a performance.'

In the future, NICT says, 'We intend to enlarge the frequency band that can be accurately reproduced in this system. Since the current 3D sound system reproduces sound from only one source, we intend to extend our research and development efforts towards techniques that enable multiple sound sources to be reproduced concurrently.'

So that's a real impression of sound coming from multiple solid objects in space before the listeners, and of musicians moving or turning.

Or footballers moving around a pitch, maybe…?

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Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.