New Kyurizukai

What made you decide to choose a researcher’s career?
      As an undergraduate freshman, I took part in the International Collegiate Virtual Reality Contest (IVRC), an event presided over by the then University of Tokyo Professor Susumu Tachi (now Special Research Professor of Keio University, and Professor Emeritus of the University of Tokyo). This turned out to be the first opportunity for me to think about a career as a researcher.
      The seniors in the circle that I joined upon university admission were the contest winner for the preceding year, whom aroused my interest. What my circle seniors developed then was a device called “Virtual Bobsleigh.” It was just before the opening of the Nagano Winter Olympics. They made a model bobsleigh, with which one could experience virtual bobsledding. To tell the truth, my seniors didn’t want to participate in that year’s contest because they had overworked themselves in the contest the preceding year. But I persistently persuaded them and could somehow make an entry as a team.
      My first production as a freshman was a tele-existence system that creates a sense of self-projection to a target object placed in a water tank. Though it was the first ever challenge for me, we were honored with an encouragement award of The Virtual Reality Society of Japan. From the second year on, we also made entries with the help of many friends as well as a professor who became the supervisor of my graduation thesis. In the third year, our team created a system that allowed one to walk around freely inside a computer memory unit’s folder structure expressed as a 3D environment. This system won both the encouragement award and technical award. The technical award was worthy of special mention as it had been monopolized over the years by the Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Robotics Study Society, famous for their achievements in the development of excellent systems. I was elated when our team won this award.
      Through entries in this contest, I was blessed with opportunities to work with front-line researchers, such as Professor Taro Maeda and Professor Hideyuki Ando (both currently at Osaka University) who became colleagues after completion of my master’s course, and Professor Masahiko Inami (now at Keio University) who was my mentor of my doctoral course. It was a truly valuable experience, awakening me to the excitement of studies.
      In my doctoral studies, it was particular significant that I could help develop the basic approach of measuring optical device locations in real time by using the intensity gradient index (index for density of light), which I devised originally. During that time, I was working with Professor Inami in research into optical measurement via space-time division multiplex. This achievement was favorably recognized by SIGGRAPH Emerging Technologies and other forefront academic societies, which in turn gave me confidence and further fueled my enthusiasm to continue to follow a researcher’s career.

You are now involved in IVRC administration, aren’t you?
      I turned to the event’s administrative side when I was a senior, and now I’m supporting it as an executive committee member. This year we celebrate the 20th milestone for the annual IVRC event. Over the past two decades, entry contents have become very diverse in pace with the development of technologies. The event has also produced a great number of VR and AR researchers including myself. Since it is a very challenging and meaningful opportunity, I’m recommending my lab students to actively participate in IVRC. I’d like to see continued participation of as many prospective researchers as possible in the future.
      I also had the experience of designing the IVRC webpage though I’m not responsible for it now. I undertook the webpage design because I enjoy CG design as a hobby and to get away from research work. During my student days, I even spent my living expenses worth several months to buy very expensive 3D CG software. Back in those days, it was a decision as desperate as making a leap in the dark. I am very envious of today’s students because at educational institutions today, it is possible for students to take advantage of a variety of highly functional software programs for free.
      The fact is I’m making effective use of CG, which I have created as a pastime, for presentation materials and web contents. So this pursuit combines utility and a hobby. The other day, I happened to find in NASA’s website a CG model of the “Hinode” (Solar-B) satellite that I created for the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan when I was a doctoral student. I am very happy to see my own CG works being enjoyed and used by many people.
      Recently, my lab introduced a “3D printer” (3D shaping equipment) as an application of CG design. It is capable of making fixtures for devices that we use for research on the spot by designing CG models. I’m extremely delighted that my hobby of CG design is actually useful in our studies.
photo      Of course, not everything in my life, whether it is my research or pastime, revolves around a computer. Since three or four years ago, our team of researchers has been making entry in “Eco-Run” – an auto event in which participating light vehicles run on the Fuji Speedway racing course. At my home, I have a home theater of 130-inch LCD projector, with which I view SF movies and animations from time to time. At the end of each semester, I invite my students to my home for a drinking party while enjoying movies. My most favorite are the works (animations) of Makoto Shinkai. Being so much attracted to such visual entertainment is perhaps retaliation to my childhood that I spent without TV (laughter).