Site: Kansai Advanced Research Center (KARC)
Communications Research Laboratory
Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications
588-2, Iwaoka, Iwaoka-cho, Nishi-ku, Kobe 651-24
Date Visited: October 21, 1992
Report Author: W. Brandon
Dr. Tadashi Shiomi
Dr. K. Nakagiri
The Kansai Advanced Research Center (KARC) was established in 1989 within the Communications Research Laboratory (CRL) of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications to become the center of "Frontier Research in Telecommunications" projects and to play a leading coordination role in cooperative research with both foreign and domestic research groups.
Further details on CRL may be found in the site report on the CRL visit, by B. Edelson.
The Frontier Research in Telecommunications program is in part a response to foreign criticism that Japan does not contribute to basic knowledge through research, as well as a response to the expanded research role required by privatization of NTT. The Frontier Research program is truly a research effort aimed at enhanced telecommunications services for the highly advanced information society of the 21st century. The relationships between future communications and the research areas is indicated in Figure KARC.1. The research is long-term, fundamental, interdisciplinary and high risk in nature.
Figure KARC.1. Research Fields Towards the 21st Century
Collaboration is organized among laboratories, university research organizations and industry. Foreign collaboration is actively sought and a program for individual staff appointments for foreign research workers is in place (JRDC 1991).
The CRL research program addresses five frontier fields: highly intelligent communications, material science and quantum devices, human and biological informatics, communications technology in the manned space era, and space and earth system science. Within this framework, the Frontier Research In Telecommunications program addresses the first three of the five areas. Within CRL, KARC addresses these areas through a set of projects organized within eight research sections and a radio physics laboratory. Each unit consists of a leader and about five staff members. Individual projects and accomplishments are outlined for each section below.
This section is concerned with advanced man-machine interface issues, considering a networked environment (computer interface to richly networked information system). Using computer tools, analysis of the dialogue between user and machine is carried out. A highly visual approach is employed in interface design. Problems include the assumption that a user will attempt to use software without having read the manual and will be remotely located (network connection). Dialogue is assessed for varied help interface designs and user query sequences.
Intelligent processing is concerned with research in machine understanding of natural language. An approach in use is to attempt to understand "puns" as an avenue towards deep understanding by machine identification of hidden meanings.
This section considers computational emulation of biological models for efficient processing of images (by segmentation) and speech (by neural networks). This is an example of a broadly interdisciplinary research project that might produce results impacting image transmission and storage, and direct audio programming of computers.
This research broadly addresses "intelligence" in living material through studies at the sub-cell and molecular level. To see genes and chromosomes at the molecular level, an order of magnitude greater resolution than that obtained from a microscope is needed. Fourier transform processing has been successfully used to separate and sharpen images, layer by layer, by deconvolution. A sequence of such images, akin to stop-motion photography, allows direct vision of changes within a cell, and correlation of these changes with externally observed events or stimuli. Copying or regeneration of a cell and energy conversion in muscle are phenomena under investigation. In both cases, some form of communication takes place within the cell and it is the objective of the research to further the understanding of these communications.
The primary focus of the Laser Physics section is on non-linear optical effects in crystals. They have produced continuous wave (cw) radiation below 200 nm. An argon laser is frequency doubled to 257 nm and the output mixed with a 792 nm signal from a titanium sapphire laser. The primary innovation is the use of a BBo crystal recently developed in China. Output is 30 mwatts cw at 194 nm. A similar experiment at NIST (USA) employed a KV5 crystal but is less efficient. Research in the Optoelectronics Section addresses ultra-low-noise, coherent light sources (squeezed light) in cw mode, which is more useful in application than pulsed mode light.
This section is concerned with the near-millimeter wave region of the electromagnetic spectrum (the last frontier). The staff concentrates on both low and high temperature superconductors. They design and fabricate superconducting oscillators, mixers, detectors and passive elements using niobium, niobium nitride, and yttrium barium copper oxide. Electron beam lithography is used for thin film devices. A 400 millijoule KLF laser (2, 4, 8 nm) has been used for ablation in fabricating YBCO thin films. A 10,000 CFM clean room is available on site for this work.
Experiments with high Tc material for passive microstrip components and fabrication of 300 GHz to 2 TerraHz lasers are both just getting under way.
Another major accomplishment is the construction of a Fourier transform spectrometer for the 3 mm to 20 mm wavelengths. (It is a Michaelson/Martin-Puplett type instrument, evacuated, and employing a mercury arc lamp source and cooled bolometer detector.)
KARC (established in 1989) and the Frontier Research Program in Telecommunications (established in 1988) are both in their infancy with respect to parent institutional history (dating to 1896) and basic telecommunications research in Japan. Perhaps most significant is the change of direction towards basic research. The program has been designed to address truly frontier areas that are clearly tied to a vision of communications for the next century -- a vision of a highly interconnected, media rich, intelligent network of communications and computers. The research program at KARC may impact such a network in a variety of ways, including transmission (nm bands, high Tc devices, high purity sources), networking (man-machine interface, biologically inspired algorithms), and information processing (language understanding, image compression).
Though a small organization, KARC has leverage through its role in selecting industrially and university funded programs, in participation in national planning through CRL, and in its recruiting of foreign and Japanese scholars for collaboration and appointments at KARC.