Site: Mixed Reality Systems Laboratory, Inc. (MRSL)
6-145 Hanasaki-cho, Nishi-ku
Yokohama 220, Japan
Date Visited: 14 October 1998
WTEC Attendees: G. Gamota, P. O'Neill-Brown
Mixed Reality Systems Laboratory, Inc. (MRSL) is one of the newer JKTC projects, and it is unique in that it has only one investor from the private sector, Canon Corporation. The project was approved in FY1996 and established on January 31, 1997. The duration of the project is 4 years and 3 months (making it one of the shorter JKTC projects).
JKTC investment is 50.1%, while Canon investment is 49.9%. Total investment is ¥5.409 billion. The company is run by a Board of Directors; the members are all Canon executives. The staff consists of 32 researchers, most of whom are from Canon. The exceptions are those with special skills needed for the planned research. Those people work under contracts. Foreign participation is encouraged: a specialist is being invited from the United States to spend a year or more, and two students from MIT Media Lab work at MRSL. MRSL also has joint research activities with the University of Tokyo, University of Tsukuba and Hokkaido University
The genesis of this project began when JKTC advertised for proposals in this area of research. Canon, admittedly little known in this area of technology, saw an opportunity to go into a new area with a possible long term benefit in identifying new product areas. By merging government support with its own resources Canon saw a way of strengthening its own future with support from the government. MRSL will offer patents and licenses to all interested parties, but Canon will have first rights of refusal to any discovery.
The aims of the research are as follows:
3-D imaging and display technologies for mixed reality systems require the following:
It is clear that Canon managers are quite happy about this arrangement since it not only allows its researchers to pursue high risk areas, but also provides a way for the researchers to develop close ties to universities in Japan and abroad. This is lacking in most Japanese companies and even in the United States. As in other projects, there is an internal review held by Canon staff and an external one held by JKTC. In addition to this, an intermediate project review was also performed at the end of 1998 by 8 experts-4 are professors from universities and 4 are from JKTC. MRSL, while a part of Canon, is actually completely separated from Canon in all of its functions and administration. MRSL will offer patent and licenses to all interested parties, but it is necessary to have suitable consultation with shareholders (JKTC and Canon). The priority right to utilize the research developed by MRSL is a subject under discussion between JKTC and Canon.