Overview of Laboratories

NHK Science & Technical Research Laboratories (NHK STRL) is the research arm of Japan's public broadcasting corporation, Nippon Hoso Kyokai (Japan Broadcasting Corporation). STRL was established in 1930, five years after NHK launched Japan's first radio broadcasting service. For over 70 years, it has specialized in research and development of broadcasting and related technologies. STRL will continue to promote broadcasting in the 21st century. Its new research facility was opened in April 2002.

Research Activities
STRL's overall goal is to facilitate the creation of a new broadcasting culture. To do so, we feel it is important to study emergent technologies and to improve current broadcast technologies. Our activities range from fundamental research on human vision and audition, physics, and materials science to the development of complete broadcasting systems and services.
Advanced ISDB
Research on ISDB (Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting) is intended to provide broadcasting services that will enrich the viewer's cultural life. BS digital broadcasting, which was launched in 2000, is one example of ISDB. One focus of our ISDB research is seamless services (seamless programs use several transmission media and can be accessed any time and anywhere) and home information networks (television-centered services that use a large-capacity home server to store television programs).
Another important research focus of ISDB is barrier-free information technology that makes the wealth of services available to everyone.
Contents production technology
Research into 'intelligent', efficient contents production is meant to reduce the cost and to ease the technical burden of television program production that often limit the choices of producers and talent in creating new audiovisual expression. Additionally, this research has yielded equipment for emergency broadcasting, including super-sensitive cameras and small, lightweight devices for news gathering and transmission. This reflects NHK's responsibility as a public broadcasting organ to supply precise information to viewers to help protect lives and property in the event of disaster.
Future broadcasting service and core technology
Research on 'super-surround' audio visual systems includes an ultrahigh-definition system (4000 scanning lines) that outperforms HDTV in terms of picture sharpness, auto-stereoscopic television, and a 3D acoustic system.
The development of new transmission technology and frequencies centers on the use of the frequency band allocated to broadcasting satellites (21 GHz and above).
Materials and devices research may lead to technological breakthroughs giving rise to radically new broadcasting services. Research topics include small ultrahigh-sensitive image pickup devices, foldable displays, and very small super-dense recorders that can record HDTV pictures for hours.

NHK Science & Technical Research Laboratories
Planning & Coordination
Planning and management of research work, international correspondence, public relations on research issues

Multimedia Services
ISDB services, next-generation program production ...

Digital Broadcasting Networks
Terrestrial ISDB, optical fiber transmission systems, ...

Digital Satellite Broadcasting Systems
BS digital transmission systems, microwave systems, ...

Advanced Audio & Video Coding
Next-generation digital compression systems, multimedia coding, ...

Three-Dimensional Audio-Visual Systems
3-D images, 3-D sound systems,...

Human Science
Human-friendly broadcasting, image and speech recognition technology, human interface, ...

Recording Technology & Mechanical Engineering
Ultrahigh-density recording, mechanical engineering, ...

Advanced Imaging Devices
Imaging devices, IC devices, ...

Display and Optical Devices
Display devices, optical devices, ...

General Affairs
General affairs and personnel

STRL will occupies the first five floors and basement of the new research facility. The facility has a variety of special experimental laboratories, including experimental studio, ISDB laboratory, sound anechoic room, device foundation laboratory, etc.

Seamless service
Terrestrial digital broadcasting
Digital terrestrial broadcasting can be viewed, not only on a regular TV set, but also via an automobile receiver or from a portable terminal.
Barrier-free information technology
Captioned broadcasting service for the hearing-impaired
NHK has been expanding the scope of captioned broadcasting for the hearing-impaired. A recent example is "News 7," a news program in which the announcer's words are subtitled by an automatic subtitling machine that uses voice recognition technology developed by STRL.
Intelligent, efficient production system
Face Recognition technology
When a facial image is entered into this system, it retrieves video scenes containing the specified subject. To do so, indexing data is attached to each video scene.

Automatic program production
A system that automatically produces television programs from scripts written in the TV-making language (TVML) is being developed. In a language education program, for instance, a human operator only needs to insert individual topics into the script template; the system will then automatically produce the rest of the program.

'Flexible' production system
Image-based virtual studio
An extremely realistic video image can be created through the composition of a CG image, a background image, and the images of the performers. This natural production system uses light that is visible to the performers but not to the camera.
Super-surround audiovisual broadcasting system
Stereoscopic television system
The viability of the binocular 3D HDTV system has been proven in many demonstrations. To eliminate the need for viewers to wear special glasses, our research team has developed a hardware prototype based on real-time integral photography (IP)*.

*Integral photography: An image-forming method that uses an array of small lenses.

Development of new transmission technology and frequencies
Next-generation satellite broadcasting system
The 21-GHz band, which is expected to be utilized by advanced satellite broadcasting systems in the future, shows significant rain attenuation for satellite broadcasting signals. Our challenge is to overcome this problem.
Materials and devices
HARP image pickup technology
With 100 times the sensitivity of an ordinary camera, the HARP (High-gain Avalanche Rushing amorphous Photoconductor) pickup tube is used in emergency broadcasting and other applications. A new prototype imaging device, a field emitter array image sensor with HARP target, has been developed by STRL with the aim of achieving an ultra-high sensitivity compact camera.

Flexible display
A flexible, rollable, display device can be made from a liquid crystal film. Research continues on a new film structure that combines polymers with materials such as high-molecular organic EL and ferroelectric crystals. The hope is that such displays will be foldable.

High-speed recording on a phase-change optical disk
An optical disk is a recording medium that has superior ease of handling and random access capability. Our research focuses on developing a disk camera that can record news materials for about 20 minutes at the transfer rate of 200 Mbps.

For the creation of "Tomorrow's Broadcasting"

In order to create "Tomorrow's Broadcasting," digital satellite broadcasting will start this year. Broadcasting will be made more convenient and enriched by digital broadcasting, which is combining services that feature HDTV and "anytime," "anybody," easy-to-use multimedia services. With the completion of the new structure in 2001, Science and Technical Research Laboratories will step into the 21st century, towards the maturity of digital broadcasting and still pioneering the new broadcasting technologies yet to come.

History of STRL
1925 First radio broadcasts in Japan
1930 NHK Science & Technical Research Laboratories established
1937 Regular study of television broadcasting begins
1939 First experimental television broadcasting in Japan
(research later interrupted by the war)
1947 First open house of Science and Technical Research Laboratories
1950 First experimental television broadcasting after the war
1953 Regular television broadcasting begins
Study of color television broadcasting starts
1956 Experimental color television broadcasting
1957 Experimental FM sound broadcasts on VHF band begin
1960 Regular color television broadcasts begin
1964 Successful broadcasting of the 18th Olympic Games from Tokyo
Study of HDTV begins
Study of satellite broadcasting begins
1969 Regular FM broadcasts start
1970 First public appearance of High Definition TV
1978 Study using experimental broadcasting satellite starts
1982 Development of satellite broadcasting system
Research on Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting (ISDB) begins
1984 High-quality transmission system (MUSE) developed
Experimental satellite broadcasts using BS-2a begin
1986 First experimental satellite HDTV broadcasts with MUSE for HDTV
1988 Development of FM Multiplex broadcasting
1989 Full-scale satellite broadcasting services begin
Experimental HDTV broadcasts begin on BS-2
1994 Final phase of experimental HDTV broadcasts begin
1996 FM multiplex broadcasts begins
1998 HDTV PDP developed for Winter Olympic Games in Nagano
1999 International standardization of HDTV studios
2000 BS digital broadcast to be launched in December
Established in 1930

STRL at its beginning

TV relay from the Tokyo Olympics

HDTV system experiment

BS-2 satellite

42-inch HDTV PDP