Site: DVL (Digital Vision Laboratories)
Place Canada, 3-37, Akasaka
Tokyo 107, Japan
Date Visited: May 26, 1995
Report Author: T. Skelly
Digital Vision Laboratories (DVL), under the guidance of the Japan Key Technology Center, plans a five-year period of test research lasting from March 1995 to March 2000. Shareholders include Japan Key Technology Center, ASCII Corporation, Sony, Toshiba, NEC, Hitachi, Fujitsu, and Matsushita Electric Industrial Company. Their goal is to establish an international standard compatible with a variety of other standards, actively collaborating with domestic and foreign industries and academics. The cost for this ambitious project is estimated at ¥6.1 billion (~$61 million), with ¥4.27 billion (~$42.7 million) expected from the Japan Key Technology Center.
Although DVL has just begun its mission (offices were only recently completed at the time of the JTEC visit), the company has established a clear commitment to data standards, including those for high definition (HD) imagery. Under the guidance of the Japan Key Technology Center, DVL has already begun a project to establish a digital HD multimedia system, including its related technologies.
DVL will be conducting R&D of "middleware" such as protocols, which allow interoperability among various hardware devices and system software, and application interfaces.
To quote from ASCII's DVL brochure: "In light of recent developments in digital technology, society is raising its expectations toward multimedia information service. To make these information services widely available, it is essential to establish technology allowing the free exchange of information among computers, networks, digital video discs, and other equipment. Creating a unified environment of house appliances, computers, and communications will also be necessary. Technology to manage high-definition (HD) imagery is also indispensable to prepare for the needs of the 21st Century."
While this site report is about DVL activities, it is important to note DVL's strong connection with ASCII Corporation. Kazuhiko Nishi, Executive Vice President of DVL, is president of ASCII Corporation. ASCII, as of 1994, had 790 employees and annual sales of ¥37.05 billion (~$370.5 million). ASCII, which began as a magazine publishing house, rapidly moved into many important areas of computing, information, and entertainment services. It is easy to see that ASCII and other similarly diverse corporations stand to greatly benefit from any successes DVL may have in its efforts to integrate information software services and digital technologies. (See Graphics Communications Labs site report.)
Media integration is an extremely ambitious goal, especially given the project's typical five-year duration. Reviewing the development of competing media formats (VCRs, laser disc players, game machines, high-definition television) and the proliferation of new media formats, it seems unlikely that enough alliances, especially outside of Japan, can be established to achieve the DVL goal of a universal software and hardware "middleware" system (software that will allow communication between competing data formats). However, it is highly likely that the effort to produce "middleware" will prove of benefit to participating shareholders, if not to the entire world.
ASCII Corporation. 1994. DVL -- Digital Vision Laboratories. Brochure.
ASCII Corporation URL: http://www.ascii.co.jp/