Home Networking: Ubiquitous Audio and Video at the Panasonic Center, Tokyo
Matsushita Electric Industrial Company opened the Panasonic Center (www.panasonic-center.com) in Tokyo on September 14, 2002. This is a large facility showcasing Panasonic technologies, prototypes and products. Panasonic aims at developing a "ubiquitous network society" that coexists "with the global environment. I accompanied Center officials and a contingent of journalists from around the world on tour of the new facility in February.
The backbone of the Panasonic Center is a gigabit optical network that makes the facility a "broadband virtual town." This carries audio and video to the Center's town hall, a WiFi broadband Café [E-FEEL], the on-site paleontology museum and other locations throughout the facility. The Center also makes use of an IP network to distribute high definition video on demand to screens scattered throughout the Center.
The Panasonic Center houses a studio equipped for the production of television programs. Ariake Studio houses two studios: Studio A is equipped for both high and standard definition programs and Studio B is equipped with a "virtual studio system." Ariake Studio specializes in experiments with interactive audience participation programs.
Of particular interest to Smart TV & Sound readers is the Life-style & Environmental Showcase located on the Center's second floor. This includes a model home environment that makes much use of networked audio, video and data. A counter-top robot, connected wirelessly to the home LAN and Internet, greets guests upon entering the home. It can answer guests' queries, such as the current locations of members of the family that ostensibly lives here. A table in the central room covers a large horizontal display screen that can be seen through its surface. An agent is displayed on the screen for each member of the family. Family members can use their agents to access data and share it with other members. A high definition screen at one end of the table shows data, images and video retrieved by the agents. Since this all occurs at a central location in the house, the table encourages family interaction and communication.