Site: Graphics Communication Laboratories (GCL)
6F Annex Toshin Bldg.
4-36-19 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku
Tokyo 151, Japan
Date Visited: May 26, 1995
Report Author: T. Skelly
Graphics Communication Laboratories (GCL) is a five-year, limited project company founded in March 1993 and scheduled to be closed in March 1998. The founding investors are Japan Key Technology Center (70%), ASCII Corporation (10%), Hitachi (8%), JVC (8%), and NEL, a subsidiary of NTT (4%). The total financial participation equals ¥5 billion (~$50 million). The chairman of GCL is Kazuhiko Nishi and its President is Toshio Otake. GCL currently employs approximately 40 individuals.
The purpose of this venture is to create intellectual properties in the form of patents, computer software, and design data for LSI, systems, and so forth. After its March 1998 closing date, GCL will be the licensing firm for managing and controlling the intellectual properties created during the research period. The company feels that this will provide the advantages to its investors and other companies of joint development at low cost for new technologies and low royalty rates to be paid by licensees. It is GCL's policy to follow standards (MPEG, MHEG, SG15, The ATM Forum, DAVIC, and corresponding domestic committees relevant to multimedia services and applications); to harmonize with application trends; and to be the first company to develop certain new technologies, but without competing with technological developments at other companies in which the partners have invested.
The goals of GCL (at the time of foundation) were to create a "harmonized" format for storage and broadcasting and communication media, to create a digital HDTV or higher resolution Codec, and to develop an integrated media TV system. It appears that Digital Vision Laboratories (DVL) has taken on the goal of harmonizing digital formats focusing on Middleware technologies (see DVL site report), but GCL's other goals are being actively pursued. These fall into three classes:
The JTEC team was presented with some current work in these areas:
The first presentation was of a 1,125-line progressive (non-interlaced) digital HDTV image. The original progressive signal is separated into two ordinary interlaced HDTV signals, both stored on conventional HDTV disks, and then combined into a full frame of HDTV video (at a rate of sixty times a second) for presentation.
The second demonstration allowed team members to compare uncompressed digital HDTV video with video that had been previously compressed and decompressed, then displayed in real time. At 40-to-1 data compression, the compressed and uncompressed images were practically identical. At 80-to-1, a truly remarkable degree of data compression, the images maintained a high level of quality, except in areas of largely uniform color that were in motion, such as flags. This, GCL representatives admitted, was something still to be worked out. Regardless, it was impressive.
The third demonstration was of what GCL calls "Information Cafeteria -- A structured multimedia/hypermedia information retrieval system." GCL defines this system as an evaluation platform for future multimedia services, including a multimedia newspaper and magazine service utilizing text, graphics, audio, and video. The company has based this system on an ATM network running at a data rate of 156 Mbits per second. This indicates that GCL sees this system not just as a media post-production tool (for which it can be used and which it resembles in function), but as an end-user system for customizing data delivery. Most notably, the Information Cafeteria uses compressed digital TV as its video source, displayed on an HDTV monitor. Text and audio are treated as separate elements.
Given its somewhat reduced goals, Graphics Communications Laboratories seems well on its way to delivering on its five-year promises. GCL's compression and display efforts appear to be healthy, but given the current costs of the hardware necessary to provide users with tools as sophisticated as the Information Cafeteria, it is well that the company views it as "an evaluation platform for future multimedia services."
Graphics Communication Laboratories. Corporate brochure and slides.