The Real Sense of Presence that is no different from a face-to-face meeting

NTT DoCoMo is responsible for mobile phone services, the telecommunications business such as terminal equipment sales, video and music distribution, and payment services as the company responsible for NTT Group's comprehensive ICT business. Yamaha's one-stop sound solution for teleconferencing, called ADECIA, has been installed at NTT DoCoMo Tohoku Inc., which has jurisdiction over six prefectures in Japan, namely Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Yamagata, Miyagi, and Fukushima. This time, we talked to Hidetoshi Ueno, Manager at the Planning and General Affairs Department, and to Masaru Hirayama, at the Planning and General Affairs Department. We wanted to learn their reasons for adopting ADECIA and how user-friendly the system has proved to be since its installation. (Posts assigned at the time of the interview)

Audio that gives a strong sense of presence and eliminates the feeling of being distant was at the core of our selecting ADECIA
● Firstly, would you kindly give us an overview of NTT DoCoMo and your Tohoku Branch?
Mr. Ueno:
Our company was founded in August, 1991 as the NTT Mobile Communications Planning Corporation, starting operations with pager services that began during Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation era, and we started business in July of the following year. Our company is currently developing its business around mobile communications that are centered on smartphones and tablets, and providing various services to attain a comfortable and convenient life and it will expand from there, under our corporate philosophy of creating a new world of communication culture. The Tohoku branch, which has jurisdiction over six prefectures in the Tohoku (northeast portion of Japan) region, has made various proposals conveniently to use NTT DoCoMo services with links to the prefectural base.

● Can you describe how you came to select the installation of ADECIA?
 Mr. Ueno:
ADECIA was installed in our large conference room at the Tohoku Building that is the base for the Tohoku branch office. Conventionally, we had installed a conference support system that included a projector and audio equipment, and set up the environment to conduct various events such as induction ceremonies and training sessions and the like in addition to holding company meetings. We ended up having to deal with the coronavirus pandemic while we were considering updating our system. It became necessary to shift from meetings and events for which we all would come together like before, to online-based meetings and events. What I thought at the time was that I want to be able to give our remote-working employees audio that gives them a real sense of presence that is no different from a real meeting, specifically because we were having meetings online. When unclear audio is sent to people who are geographically distant, it tends to give them a stronger sense of being far away. That's why I wanted to choose a conferencing system that would pick up audio as clearly as possible. That led me to selecting ADECIA.

Connecting Sendai and Tokyo Online and Checking the Sound Quality in Advance at Both Points

The Excellent Audio Automatic Tracking Performance of RM-CG Was the Deciding Factor for ADECIA
● We have heard that a change in the setting of the conference room and a reduction in the load on microphone settings were also reasons for installing ADECIA.
Mr. Hirayama:
Yes, that’s right. Not only can this conference room be split into two rooms using a partition, but sometimes we use it as one room by removing the partition. We can use this room for different meetings styles and events. Therefore, when we decided to upgrade our conference support system, we wanted to attain an environment that would make preparing it as smooth as possible, even when changing the room’s setting of its tables and chairs. It is rather troublesome to have to setup microphones to fit the venue setting for each online meeting. Also, when we had meetings during the coronavirus pandemic, people sit separated from each other to avoid getting too close physically. This meant that the number of microphones increased so we had enough for each speaker. While discussing whether there are any good ways to reduce the load we face in preparing our conference room, I learned about ceiling-mounted microphones through an introduction given by Towa Engineering. They have a proven track record of designing and constructing conference and audio systems for major companies, universities, and government agencies all across Japan.

● Have you considered a ceiling-mounted microphone system other than that offered by Yamaha?
 Mr. Hirayama:
Yes, we considered others, but we actually decided to connect the Yamaha showroom in Tokyo to the DoCoMo Tohoku building online to check the sound quality. The decisive factor was that the system clearly picked up the spoken voice from anywhere in the room and delivered clear audio to our remote location. RM-CG is equipped with an automatic voice-tracking feature, so even if people happen to be talking elsewhere in the room, it tracks the speaker very well.

● It has been over a year since you had ADECIA installed. What are your impressions after having used it, and how easy it is to use?
Mr. Ueno:
The ceiling array microphone delivers very clear audio and gives you a sense of presence, and a realistic sense. It’s almost like having a face-to-face meeting. Conventionally, it was necessary to be careful to speak directly into the microphone, but now, the system automatically picks up the audio. You don't have to worry about where the microphones are, so there is no stress. The system is mounted in the ceiling, so it doesn’t disrupt your view. We think it is very user-friendly.

Mr. Hirayama:
The ceiling installation dramatically reduced the troublesome task of setting the microphones, and greatly increased the degree of freedom in arranging the tables. Previous meetings were almost always conducted in-person, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an increase in meetings with a greatly reduced number of participants, and meetings in which one person will deliver the signal to many people. For that reason, we are grateful to be able to accommodate a variety of meeting styles.

● Yours is a leading communication company that is expanding its comprehensive ICT business. Has there been increased importance in conducting online meetings and remote work because of the coronavirus pandemic? Also, can you tell us what you think may happen to the conference support system in the future?
Mr. Ueno:
Online use for work has changed dramatically in terms of opportunities, frequency and our methodology. We are now conducting our regular work remotely more and more. Even for the NTT Group, in 2020, we focused on the "remote world" (decentralized society) with a view to society with and after the coronavirus, and launched our efforts to attain that. In July this year, we initiated policies one after the other that are ahead of their times, such as removing the restrictions where employees who work remotely can live and the like. This spring, we announced our new vision for the group. That is to share real-world sensations and experiences with many people by naming services that utilize technologies such as virtual reality VR and augmented reality AR as "NTT XR.” We believe that by incorporating these technologies, the conference support system will also begin to change. Meetings have a rather rigid image. However, for example, if there were a meeting support system in which you can participate in a meeting with an attractive character (avatar) instead of your real self, ideas may be generated because communication will play out like never before.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today.