Director's Talk
Thursday, June 6 13:00-13:30

Cultivate trees that will bear fruit

- Building a technical infrastructure that connects people and information -
Eisaku Maeda, Director, NTT Communication Science Laboratories


  Since entering the 21st century, we have seen rapid changes in the information environment surrounding our daily lives. These changes are characterized by incredible speed. This speed is clear from the changes in keywords that have been widely publicized over the last ten years—ubiquitous, grid, sensor network, semantic WEB, WEB 2.0, clouds, big data, etc. In addition, the devices used to access networks have also changed from desktops and cell phones to tablets and smart phones. The range of users of these devices has expanded and now includes everyone from children to the elderly. The services provided in response to this new, altered environment will have a different complexion.
  In the midst of these dramatic changes in the information environment, NTT Communication Science Laboratory aims to construct a new technical infrastructure connecting ‘people’ and ‘information.’ Basic research is different from the development of services, which requires meeting immediately the needs of the time. Basic research requires technological innovation based on a medium- to long-term standpoint. However, the acceleration of the speed of change means that the shape and form of basic research will naturally have to evolve from what it was 10 or 20 years ago.
  Minor paradigm shifts and the discovery of problems often become the seeds of new research. If you water the ground, buds will eventually emerge. Furthermore, if you add fertilizer and sunlight, at some future date the flowers, namely research articles and patents, will bloom. However, flowers main role is to attract bees for pollination, and they are not usually eaten. Flowers may subsequently become fruit, and these fruit can be picked. However, we cannot necessarily eat the fruit we have gathered just as it is. We cannot eat the fruit if it is hard and unripe. Moreover, the fruit may be sour or even poisonous. Fruits are often cooked with other ingredients or sometimes stored to ripen or to eat in the future. In addition, we can extract the seeds from the fruit to grow the next generation, or we can choose to raise seedless fruit.
  Whatever the case, when technological fruits are consumed and provide nourishment, we can say that the research results are useful for the world. The act of cultivating technological trees that bear fruit is the role of basic research, and this is no different from the research and development of years past. It has been more than 20 years since the founding of NTT Communication Science Laboratories, and in this period, little by little, technologies have been created from basic research and development that has become part of today’s society. Robust media search (RMS), speech recognition, reverberation control, question answering, machine translation, and information science for material quality perception— when we analyze success stories such as these, we can see that it takes more than ten years to fruits are consumed after the seeds were sown.
  When we look at the huge changes in the information communications environment, how do we see these last ten years? If we are to raise many trees that will bear fruit, what should we change and what should we preserve? We must think about what a basic research laboratory should do for the future. I hope that each of the exhibits at this Open House will give you a clear picture of what kind of fruit we will create.
[ This talk will be presented in Japanese. ]


Director, NTT Communication Science Laboratories
Eisaku Maeda